May 09, 2019

By: @kai_naturally 

A 5-step cheat-sheet to beating the flu, staying lean and making gains this winter. 

Winter is a formidable force. The cold, shorter days and all that butternut soup have an accumulative power to make us less likely to go for a run before work as well as urging us to go back for seconds or thirds on rainy nights. 

Big Pharma and fast-food chains love winter. Indulgent meals awaken our reptilian brain, overloading our fatty and sugary sensors after lying dormant during an active summer. Gone are the days, where we’d rewind and pump-up our vitamin-D reserves by going for a surf after work or taking a leisurely walk after dinner. Even commuting by pedal-power becomes far less appealing on those rainy days in the Cape. 

It’s only natural to want to sleep in a little more or take in an extra serving. We should listen to our bodies, but that’s assuming the marketers haven’t gotten to you first! Heavy junk food and products that corrupt these sensors are only going to see you putting on extra kg’s and approaching next summer feeling shorter of breath. 

Here are a couple of things that can help you make gains and avoid winter stagnation:

1.)    Spice up your routine- It’s fun!

What worked for you in summer won’t necessarily work for you in winter. The general science of physiology requires us to overload a muscle until adaptation to take place, therefore making us better, faster and stronger. If you’re repeating what you’ve been doing the whole summer, then you’re probably stagnating and need to shake things up to make progression.

2.)    Days are shorter: 

The amount of light you’ll get after work will be minimal compared to January or February. Training and practice shouldn’t induce more stress. The time spent with your family, for example, is equally important to your physical endeavors. It could mean getting a gym membership if you have been a calisthenics maestro on the Sea Point promenade for the past couple of months or you may need to invest in a powerful headlamp, revisiting your favourite trails in a totally new light. 

3.)    Don’t get sick! Fight Inflammation: 

Diet: Eat your greens (I mean it!), get your fibre in, and eat nutrient dense foods (eat the colours of the rainbow). Stay away from foods that inflame you (you’ll know the ones), but highly processed, sugar-rich and fatty foods are the nasty culprits. Dairy and animal proteins have been proven to inflame your gut, so keep those on the down low. 

Is it a surprise that these foods are the go-to during flu-season! Getting the flu or a cold isn’t mandatory.

4.)    Have cold swims. Yep, I said it. 

This isn’t just me; I promise. If you’ve heard of Wim Hoff, aka the Iceman (Google him), this technique of deep breathing and cold-water therapy has been proven to reduce inflation. Getting a surge of fresh oxygen into your lungs stimulates your immune system and kicks-off your day like nothing else. A quick plunge into the Atlantic Ocean or just having a cold shower is all you need. 

Tip: breath through your nose, it’ll make it easier.  

5.)    Get into the gym. Time to get strong! 

If you’re like me, someone more endurance orientated then getting in some HIIT or pumping iron may be a good idea. Tightening up your core and building some muscle is only going to be beneficial. This is a perfect time to also train your antagonistic muscle group, reducing your risk of injury. Ultimately, you’ll be focusing on shorter high-quality sessions rather than longer drawn out sessions.  

Follow him on Instagram: @kai_naturally  

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