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   Date: 1/14/09

Winter Wellness

Kelly Coffey ’02, owner of Strong Coffey, is a Certified Personal Trainer in Northampton, who provides assistance to many in the Smith community. As someone who once weighed more than 300 pounds, Coffey remembers what the winter doldrums are like. To help curb the tendency to get out of shape in the dead of winter, she offers these tips.

Staying Warmed up in the Cold Months

By Kelly Coffey ’02

Winter’s got a bad rep, and rightly so with all the darkness, freezing temperatures and the limited space to walk around when we do venture outside. But winter needn’t be a season of low activity, careless eating and emotional malaise. Try some of these wintertime wellness suggestions and you may find yourself beginning the spring feeling better overall than you were at autumn’s end.

  • Set a schedule. Winter can be a transitional, often erratic time for students. Adopting daily routines can create rhythm and regularity helpful for keeping stress at bay. You might try outlining your schedule at the start of each week, deciding in advance when you’ll fit in one or more of thes wellness-related activities.
  • Stretch it out. Cold temperatures mean tight muscles and stored tension galore (think of how rigid you are when walking on ice!). Daily stretching can alleviate stiffness and sooth sore muscles. While a daily yoga practice would be ideal, simple stretching at your desk or right before bed can help you relax and maintain or improve flexibility.
  • Let it shine. Though the days have begun to lengthen, darkness is still falling long before bedtime. Being in well-lit rooms can pep you up and keep you moving well into the evening. Try turning on an extra lamp in your room or office, or spending time in light-flooded spaces like the Campus Center.
  • Sweat it out. You didn’t expect an article written by a personal trainer to leave out exercise, did you? If you’re feeling tired, cranky, or just want to stave off the winter blahs, exercise is the answer. Never been to the Olin Fitness Center before? Check it out! Already have an exercise routine? Keep it up! You might even try something new, like snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
  • Yuk it up. Of the four seasons, winter’s the one most associated with depression and lethargy. Laughing works like a charm to lessen and (at least temporarily) eliminate these unwanted states. You might try renting a favorite funny movie, going to a comedy show, or having coffee with a friend endowed with the gift of wit.
  • Go it together. During the cold months there’s an inclination to confine oneself to the warmth of home or office. Though this is an effective way to keep from freezing, it has a tendency to get a little lonely. If you’re opting to stay in, consider inviting a friend or colleague to help you pass the time.
  • Maintain your connections. No classes and fewer obligations can mean lots more free time. Calling and emailing friends, family and mentors is one wise way to spend that time. Is there someone back home you haven’t spoken to since school started? Take a step beyond Facebook and connect with them in real time!
  • Get pampered, Honey. It’s easier to neglect our bodies when they’re buried under layers of fleece and Polartec fabric. Reverse this tendency by treating yourself to your favorite beauty or bodywork. You might consider scheduling an hour-long massage, getting your energy tweaked, or having someone put an expert spin on your eyebrows.
  • Have a hug. Basic human contact is a terrific way to counter winter doldrums. A simple hug can serve to calm restless nerves, turn a mood around, and create feelings of relaxation and contentment. Try asking a friend or housemate to share a strong, 20-second long hug with you. Do this several times a day and you’ll be practically blah-proof!
  • Eat for wellness. With the holidays in the rearview it’s a great time to eat for optimum wellness. Healthy eating means seriously limiting simple carbs and high-fat foods, and enjoying your fill of high-fiber vegetables and lean proteins. Drink loads of water and herbal teas to stay hydrated, and enjoy how your body feels when fueled well.
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