Have you noticed your inclination towards hibernation this time of year? Have you also noticed that when you do lean towards this very natural inclination, the guilt (and possibly shame) is unbearable? It might sound something like this…
“Ughhhh, I should go to the gym. But I really don’t want to!”
“I’m so lazy! All I want to do is snuggle up under a blanket and watch Netflix.”
“I was going to go for a run, but it’s so miserable out! I’m so bad at sticking with it this time of year.”
Don’t feel bad.
It’s natural and even healthy to take a bit of a step back this time of year. So, why does it feel like a big red ‘F’ for failure to slow down?
We live in a culture where busy is an accolade and stress is commonplace. We’re all so caught up in this hard driving push to do more, be more and always be improving. Even well-meaning memes trying to take the emphasis off comparison by saying things like “be your best self” or “better than I was yesterday” ultimately tell us one thing: it’s not ok to be myself – right here – right now. I’m not enough, just as I am. I must do better, and be better. Always. Strive. Strive. Strive.
Don’t get me wrong. I love self-improvement just as much as the next gal, but all this hustle hard, find your grit, and go-go-go of our modern culture is wearing us down and wearing us out!
Rates of stress and mental illness are on the rise. We are a chronically tired, yet the predominant cultural norm is to scrimp on sleep to get one. more. thing. done.
What if instead of of all this hard-driving, we simply took a break?
What if instead, we took a note from nature and slowed down with the season?
What if instead of drowning in guilt and shame we gave ourselves space and grace to chill out?
What if we embraced healthy hibernation!?
What does healthy hibernating look like?
Well the answer to that question depends on you my friends (you had to see that coming if you’ve read any of my work). But whether you’re an average Canadian working to achieve the recommended 150 weekly minutes or a recreational athlete chasing down goals you can apply this concept to help you get through the winter months feeling as fabulous as a momma bear in the spring (no guilt or shame required)! It all comes down to giving yourself permission to shift gears in three areas: type, intensity and volume.
For the “average Canadian” (OK, I kind of cringed at that word too, but you catch my drift) look at it this way. Ultimately for health benefit you do still want to aim to be moving your awesome body 150-minutes per week. But consider that how you get those minutes may not be the same as your movement style in the warmer, lighter spring and summer months. For example, often in the spring and summer we’re more inclined to be outside doing activities in nature. We have more daylight and the weather is more favourable. But maybe come winter those same activities that you love, while possible, no longer hold their lustre. It’s ok! What if instead of feeling badly for meeting yet another walk or mountain bike ride with your friends, you decide to visit your local recreation centre for a class or visit your local yoga studio. I have BIG news for you – as long as you’re moving in ways that feel good – your body really genuinely doesn’t care! Find the types of activities that suit your body and your lifestyle – right now!
Intensity & Volume
I often talk about this concept in a slightly different way with my running clients (but don’t worry this point applies to everyone, so roll with me).
When they rattle off all the races they’re doing and all the cross-training plans they have, I’ll often ask them “When is your off season?”
To which they will respond, “my what?”
Sure, none of my runners are competitive or professional athletes – but this is all the more reason they need an off season! As a recreational athlete (or every day exerciser/ active person) it’s important to remember that rest is part of the program. Rest includes both days of rest, as well as weeks and periods where training is significantly reduced (aka hibernation).
I’m not suggesting we have to give it ALL up and lay like spaghetti in a hammock (though there’s a time and place for that). But I am suggesting that within the bigger scale of your annual calendar there is benefit (tremendous benefit) to taking a period where you back off your intensity and volume. Instead of hitting the gym and doing HIIT, maybe you go for some gentle walks.Or maybe instead of training for another 1/2 or full marathon you simply run for joy 2-3x per week. By taking this pro-active step you not only support a healthy balanced approach to health and fitness, you may actually prevent injury and illness.
Say what? Yeah! One of the most important things you can do to prevent injury and illness is to ensure you’re taking adequate rest and recovery. Overtraining is your quickest road to both illness and injury (and neither are fun). So take a step back, rest and recover.
How does this apply to the non-recreational athlete?
If you typically hit the gym 4-5 days per week for an hour, consider that you’re well exceeding the 150-minutes per week goal for optimal health. So if you’re feeling a bit dragged out and not-so-inspired by this routine come hibernation, consider cutting back to 3 sweat sessions per week. Or switch things up entirely and swap out the gym for some more gentle walking and yoga. Or maybe you want to stay home and sweat it out in your basement or living room. Awesome. Hey, did you know I have a whole library of follow along strength, cardio, yoga, foam rolling and more in the Super You Studio and you can buy access to the Top 5 Studio Faves to download for your use for just $39? Yup. #awesome!
Bottom line: if you’re feeling inclined to hibernate, instead of ditching your workouts entirely, consider shifting the volume (time spent) and intensity instead and see how that feels!
What’s the big take-away?
Listen to your body. If it’s whispering at you to rest more, take note. Especially this time of year. There’s something really beautiful about taking cues from nature. As the leaves fall, and release the old, create space for yourself to release habits and routines that don’t serve you. Allow yourself a period of healthy hibernation and then just wait for the awesome show come spring when you’ll be refreshed and renewed unlike ever before!
PS. If you need some help or support creating a plan for healthy hibernation, reach out. I’d love to connect!