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Don't Fall Back

Much has changed over this weekend. We turned the clocks back one hour and the temperature dropped to 35 degrees early this week. The New York Marathon was an exciting success. Today it is in the 60s. What a shock! Those colorful leaves are falling rapidly off the trees. And the marathon runners no longer have a training schedule to adhere to. We are exercising less and eating the same amount of food. So what happens? Weight gain. I often meet athletes who complain that they gain weight in the winter. So how do you prevent gaining those winter pounds?

Well, if you were cycling or running approximately 15 hours a week and now you exercise half that amount you may have reduced your weekly caloric needs by almost 8,000 calories (assuming you weigh 195 pounds and ride 16-19 mph average speed). That is a reduction of 1143 calories per day. Now you know why you might gain weight in the winter.

So how do you keep from adding those extra pounds? Here are some helpful hints:

  1. Eat less – This seems obvious, but it is not as easy as it seems. Over the summer when you are riding or running more, you may have found that you can get away with larger portion sizes. Now that you are exercising less, you should start thinking about portion size. What is a portion? A portion of meat (steak, chicken, fish, etc.) is the size of a deck of cards. That is equivalent to 3 ounces. A portion of pasta is ½ cup and a portion of rice is 1/3 cup. Doesn’t sound like much? To make your meals appear and feel bigger, add more vegetables to your plate. Make a pasta primavera or stir-fried rice that is generous on the veggies. It will be colorful, filling and healthy.

  2. Watch what you drink #1 – If you are used to drinking Gatorade, Cytomax, Accelerade or some other fluid replacement drink while you exercise, only use it if you are exercising more than 1 ½ hours. Otherwise, you are adding unnecessary calories to your daily intake. The exception to this rule is if you are exercising without eating breakfast first.

  3. Watch what you drink #2 – Alcohol adds calories. You add about 150 calories to your intake if you drink a glass of beer, a full glass of wine or a mixed drink. Not only does it add excess calories, but alcohol increases appetite so you eat more.

  4. Strengthen your bones – Start a weight lifting routine. It will shape your body while improving your bone health. Weight bearing exercise strengthens bones by stimulating bone formation. However, the benefits of weight-bearing exercise are site-specific. This means that you strengthen only the bones used directly in the exercise. Therefore, it's a good idea to participate in a variety of weight-bearing exercises. To maintain the bone-building benefits, exercise should be continued on a regular basis. Weight-bearing exercises/activities include baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, weight-lifting, aerobics, dancing, running and walking. Although swimming is good exercise, it is not a weight-bearing activity.

  5. Get indoors – Less outdoor exercise is not a bad thing. In fact, this is a great time for cross-training. Go to the health club for spinning classes, weight lifting, Pilates, swimming, boxing, Zumba, or dance the night away. Do a combination of activities: some that get your heart rate up and others that incorporate balance, flexibility, stretching and strength. When spring comes around, you will be ready to ride and run outdoors.

  6. Get outdoors – Try a new winter sport such as cross-country skiing, snow shoeing or winter hiking. They are high calorie burners and loads of fun!

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