Health: Getting the jump on a winter slump

Midwinter is the time I can become one of the less-popular vegetables—a parsnip, maybe—languishing in my bin, inert and waiting for the days to grow longer.

I can feel myself growing softer, less energetic. I justify this as the species' tendency toward semi-hibernation; but deep inside, I know inertia is not good for my bones, heart or mood.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is real, and while I'm not a full-fledged SADist, this turnip goes limp after a week of no sunlight, and precious little daylight.

Last winter, I got deeply into the iBook, "How to Watch TV and Get Fit", by Debbie Rahman, an adaptable, bite-sized exercise program that has nothing to do with TV; it's short-interval training you can do at home. It delivered efficient, measurable results and is probably the best $10 I ever spent.

I had parked the e-book once summer came, and just last week was thinking I should go back to it.

Then, last Sunday, I read that the New York Times was launching a free 30-Day Well Challenge. Much more than an exercise program, it's accessible, fun and packed with a month's worth of bite-sized activities that build good habits. It's not competitive and you don't need to be a NYT subscriber to join in. The time commitment is less than 15 minutes per day.

Tara Parker-Pope, who heads the Times team who designed the Challenge, says:
"Four days a week, the Challenge offers simple tasks that help us nourish our bodies, refresh our minds or connect with those we love. The ideas for these challenges came from scientific research... The goal was to distill the science down into actionable advice." 

I thought, Why not? It's only 30 days, right when I need it. And free: no trainer or coach, special gear, meetings, membership fees.

The first challenge, a "6-Minute Mindful Workout", hit my inbox before Le Duc could slide his tray of oatmeal cookies out of the oven. (Another reason why I feel a little lardy.)

At four days in, I'm impressed by the quality of the material. You can go straight to the videos or read optional tidbits such as the science behind the habit.  (Tip: Skip reading comments from participants.)

If you already have an exercise routine, do the movement segment as a little booster or add sets. If starting from scratch or if you wish to adapt the exercises, illustrations show how to modify each one.

Even when I'm not impelled to adopt a particular habit, it's still fun to try something new. The Challenge is as much about your rut as your butt.

Hey, wanna try it? Sign up here, and your first Well Challenge hits your inbox this coming Monday.

In a month, we'll talk about how it went.


Madame Là-bas said…
I signed up. My husband has been unwell since September and it definitely is affecting his mood. I need to work to keep my energy and spirits up. Thanks for the suggestion.
Leslie M said…
I have long been a fan of The NY Times 7 minute workout app. Some of the exercises you show look familiar. The app is nice because it talks you through the exercise and has a stopwatch counting down the seconds. My blood pressure increases in the winter and my Dr has prescribed more exercise. I’ll sign up for the callenge, too, Good luck to us all.
Here is the app:
Duchesse said…
Mme Là- bas: Thank you! Now I have company!

Leslie: I really like the 7 Min. Series. The Well Challenge is program is broader (nutrition, stress mgmt/ relaxation, relationships) and the beginning exercise sequences are notably easier, but you can swap in the 7 Min. or another one. The Seven Minute developer was a designer of the Well Challenge. Apparently he got feedback that many people needed an easier start.

As I recall, you did “ TV” with me last winter and we both saw it work. (It is but one of many HIIT programs.) To manage BP is an important motivation for me, too. Happy you signed up!
Wendy said…
I signed up, too. I’m dragging even in the California sunshine with a cold that won’t quit and my mother has just been put on hospice care. Too much stress. I definitely need something positive to focus on and this sounds like it may fit the bill and not be a huge time commitment either. Thanks for sharing this.
J9 said…
I’ve signed up as well. Long prairie winters are getting harder to slog through as I age. I am trying to add in new activities to stave off the dreaded cabin fever that usually creeps in in February! Looking forward to participating in the 30 day challenge !
Duchesse said…
Wendy: I am sorry to hear that. While I certainly do not wish you had these stresses, you can tell us if the "habits" introduced help with that. It is typical to have a dip in one's health at such times, right when you need more stamina.

J9: February has to be the worst month, before the time changes. Thank you for taking the initiative.
I'm not one for following apps, but I will look at this, as the recent weather bomb made it impossible for me to do even my usual walk. No weight gain, but that is more down to loss of appetite from sinuses than any particular resolve. I do have very sturdy oak office chairs from the Congrégation Notre-Dame motherhouse (!!!) so I'll have to look at what one can do with a chair.

I had signed up for a class at a nearby community centre, but it was closed yesterday as well.

Cute that the wee black cat looked a bit too round as well.
materfamilias said…
What a great idea! Although for now, I really think I'll avoid one more item on my to-do list (I can get a wee bit compulsive, tbt, and I've got a few ongoing projects at the moment). . . .Plus outside is much more accessible to us during our winter than yours is right now!
LauraH said…
Why not? I'm coming out of my January slump and this may help prevent a relapse in February:-) Thanks for sharing.
These exercises are a bit too much for me and my damed knees but I do agree that it's much too easy to become a real sloth at this time of year. I have been doing indoor walking with a YouTube series (I keep a chair handy to grab onto) but so far I'm up to a brisk mile at a time so I'm pleased with that. I've looked out my small weights and I've found a good Chair Yoga program on YouTube so no excuses - I can do everything from the comfort of my living room!
Duchesse said…
LauraH: Yay, you can even do the daily "challenges" in your 'moon' earrings!!

Margie from Toronto: There is more in the Challenge than exercise and you can easily sub in your favourite YouTube routines, if that appeals to you.
Duchesse said…
Everyone interested or signed up: At a week in, I found it useful to watch the short exercise video first rather than following 'cold'. It may sound like it would take longer but it did not b/c I knew what was going to happen.
Leslie M said…
Duchesse, I signed up, but did not receive the challenge in my email. I will try again, but hope I didn’t sign up too late to participate.

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