SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: Change of seasons calls for change of pace

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Implementing health routines and lifestyle changes are challenging, especially during the winter months. It is common during the holiday season to indulge in drinks and food while skipping physical activity since it's dark and cold. Instead of dreading the winter, we should embrace seasonal changes while staying active and fit.

Minds and bodies require 30 days to recognize lifestyle and routine changes. My perception is that a routine should be implemented prior to the holiday season because after indulging in tasty sweets for several weeks it is difficult to get the sluggish body moving.

Working out during these months helps eliminate the sluggishness that comes with the "fall back" time change and sugar crashes, and keeps you mentally and physically energized. For example, if your New Year's resolution is to lose weight and tone muscles, November and December are the time to have a weekly routine penciled into your calendar.

When implementing exercise into your daily life it is important to find something that motivates you. Choosing something that you enjoy first will help you "bond" with a routine along with allowing you to explore those "not-so-fun" aspects of fitness later. Many people find that connection with fitness through outdoor recreation or sports. Fall and winter exposes us to a variety of physical activities.

Fall foliage is one example. Bennington Lake, Pioneer and Rooks Park feature enjoyable trails to bike and hike and notice the colors, the turning of the leaves is a sign for children to jump in the piles and make it a family affair, and raking burns calories and exercises the whole body. After walking or playing in the leaves, families can warm up with hot apple cider or juice with mulling spice.

Cross country skiing is recognized as one of the most physically intense sports. This full-body workout activates and targets the large muscle groups of the body with a rhythm of kicks, long glides and propelling pole motions. The Umatilla National Forest and Spout Springs Ski Resort feature numerous cross country ski trails with access near Tollgate.

Exercising outdoors with the natural surroundings is blissful. Outdoor enthusiasts have been known to dedicate many hours outdoors. Motivation to train for these sports or events allows people to transition to a workout facility to stay in shape in the off-season.

The next eight weeks are crucial to get bodies adjusted to exercise to avoid burnout. For weight-loss resolutions, people usually join a gym. Frequently, people transition from a sedentary or inactive lifestyle to work out intensely 5 to 7 days per week. People then feel good and "thinner" until the body crashes from too much exercise or a drastic cut in caloric consumption. Burnout generally occurs and people quit after six to 10 weeks.

Changing your lifestyle takes time, patience and knowledge of how the body works with exercise. Starting during the hectic-holiday season will aid in the slow alteration of an exercise routine, even if you can only walk or work out one or two days per week. Gradually incorporating exercise while steadily decreasing empty calories is one of the many keys to healthy success. And discovering what forms of exercise you most enjoy aids in sticking with long-term lifestyle changes.

People also need to realize that the body needs food in order to lose weight. Research has shown that four to five small meals per day shows success in weight loss or maintenance. Eating smaller meals not only keeps the metabolism burning but also aids in healthy digestion. Overeating leads to an uncomfortable stomach, groggy mind and bloating. In addition, the holidays are infamous for high intakes of sugar. If you are experiencing stomachaches, headaches, constant thirst, bloated or sluggish bodies, this can be a sign of eating too much sugar. I would recommend giving your body and stomach a break from sweet foods to maintain proper digestion.

Remember that fitness and dietary guidelines are individualized. It is vital to find what works best for your body, lifestyle and schedule. Through the start of the holiday season, try to analyze what you prefer in terms of exercise and dietary consumption. There is no better time to change your life than today!

Elizabeth Kovar has been working in the fitness industry since 2006 with international experience in India and Australia. She has a master's degree in recreation and tourism and is a programs coordinator at the YMCA where she trains, instructs fitness classes and assists in marketing projects. She welcomes questions and comments and can be reached at ekovar@wwymca.org.

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