They say summer bodies are made in winter. However, the annual Sydney exodus to Europe means summer sometimes summer bodies need to be made by mid-July. This year I will be taking myself on vacation to France – one week in the South and two in Paris. I will be arriving from overcast, dreary Sydney to the middle of the European summer.
Surely the looming spectre of the Zimmerman bikini that’s been sitting in the back of my wardrobe since February would be enough fitness inspiration for anyone, right? Wrong. The ravages of winter have found me reaching for the chocolate more often than I would care to admit.
Nothing breeds solutions like the proposition of being surrounded by French It-Girls come August, so after a couple of moribund viewing sessions of Jean Damas’ Instagram, I’ve magicked up some hacks to stay motivated. I can’t hope to match her golden glow, but at least I’ll be looking and feeling my “personal best” amongst the French this summer.
I hope these tips will make your summer in Europe getaway that much easier to swing into (or your winter a little less dreary)!
Winter Problem One: Comfort Food
Summer in Europe Solution: Curb Your Cravings
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that winter is the season of comfort food. Think Pizza, lasagna, and chocolate. Come winter refreshing fresh fruit and salads feel that much less satisfying and it’s tempting to carbo-load. In fact, it’s genetically programmed. According to research, this is less to do with temperature and more to do with light – which is why temperature-controlled offices and Uniqlo’s Heat-Tech offerings haven’t done away with winter cravings. As the days grow shorter human beings instinctively stockpile calories preparing for the leaner times ahead. Unfortunately, in modern-day society, this can leave us feeling sluggish, bloated and less than our best.
An easy way to satiate winter cravings is to up your protein intake. I have found that eating a high protein or “paleo” breakfast makes me feel full, and less inclined to sugary snacking, for the rest of the day. If you want to try this I recommend the Bircher Bar’s Goldenola Muesli which contains raw buckwheat with cashews, quinoa puffs, roasted almonds, pepitas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flaked coconut, and dates. The healthy fats and fibers keep me feeling full and regulate my blood sugar (I also love their gluten-free Paleo blend that mixes macadamias, ground cinnamon, and organic cacao nibs). I mix these blends with my regular oats and add berries for sweetness. Breakfast feels like a treat but most importantly I don’t find myself getting hungry throughout the day.
Winter Problem Two: Finding the time, and space, to exercise
Summer in Europe Solution: Go Low Impact – and Stick To It
Exercise comes easy in summer – after all, we want to be outdoors anyway. Winter, with it’s freezing temperatures, torrential rains and short days is entirely different. Many people plan their workouts for after work – but as the days get shorter outdoors jogging holds less appeal. What’s more, chilly temperatures put us at greater risk of aching muscles and injury. We recommend finding an indoors exercise regime that won’t test your “too hard threshold” ie. one that is close to home or even better, that you can do yourself. For me, a combination of yoga and pilates works wonders. Pilates stretches and strengthens sore, tired muscles and, if I’m short on time, it’s something I can practice at home. Low impact resistance training will maintain mood and muscle mass for winter and keep you toned for those azure-coastline European summer-selfies.
Winter Problem Three: Snooze Factor
Summer in Europe Solution: Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
And I don’t mean washing your sheets (but please do). The easiest solution to making time for exercise is to wake up early and get it in. But it can be hard to resist the snooze button when it’s cozy in your bed and freezing outside. Also, the lack of light during winter actually makes us more sleepy as our bodies overproduce melatonin – you may find you genuinely need more sleep.
Sleep is crucial to beauty and health, but most of us don’t get enough of it. There is resounding scientific evidence that a good night’s sleep improves your immunity, mental health, and your waistline – a true winter wellness wonder and three things that will set you up for your best summer in Europe yet. What’s more? The rest that you get before midnight is worth 2 hours for every hour after so you will be feeling mentally sharper for the all the pre-vacation work you have to plow through.
Going to bed earlier, rather than sleeping in later, just makes sense then. Resist Netflix’s siren call by creating an indulgent ritual around your early bedtime. I have found flannel sheets and lavender pillow spray work a treat.
Another suggestion? Become a sleep chemist! I already take collagen powder, but taking collagen powder at night can improve your sleep cycle. Glycine, which makes up 20% of the amino acids found in collagen improves sleep and inhibits anxiety. Researchers have found that consumption of 3g of glycine before bedtime improves the depth of sleep. I have found mixing my collagen powder with my Cayenne 5-Spice Cacao healthy hot chocolate kills two birds with one stone – I feel like I’ve had an after-dinner treat (essential after a long day at work) and it perfectly relaxes me. Cacao is naturally rich in tryptophan – an amino acid that can be converted by the body into serotonin and melatonin. An added bonus? Five Spice Blend warms you up while providing you with essential vitamins and minerals to fight flu season.
Ready to Go?
So, stop hitting snooze in the morning and get to bed earlier. It will be an adjustment, but early to bed and early to rise will leave you with more time in the mornings for a quick work out.
For more information, and inspiration, check out Sophie Smith’s article on ways to up your health and fitness this winter. And keep an eye out for more travel preparation articles as I get ready for my summer adventure!