by Casey Douglas
Photo Courtesy of Pexels
“Bulking Season—n., the season in which someone eats lots of food in an attempt to gain weight and thereby increase their muscle mass.”
For some workout fiends, winter is prime time to become your most “swole” self: load up on chicken, cut back on junk food and beef up your caloric intake. Now, when done properly, “bulking season” is a perfectly healthy way to make serious gains. Nonetheless, many individuals inadvertently participate in bulking seasons as a result of colder temperatures, finals and hearty winter foods.
Now, don’t get me wrong—I love a rich cup of hot chocolate and a day spent doing nothing more than finding warmth in a heap of blankets. Additionally, my intention is not to shame or to dissuade you from the occasional indulgence of treat-yo-self days. My purpose is to offer some useful pointers for those hoping to enjoy their winter while steering clear of the freshman/sophomore/junior/senior 15. And no, I’m not just going to tell you to “take the stairs!” more often. Instead, I offer you three tips to combat any unwanted bodily changes—both internally and externally—during the wintertime.
1. Vegetables Are Friends and Food
Those gnarly green and orange and red things your mom was always trying to make you eat? It’s about time I give them a shout out. Vegetables are packed full of vitamins and nutrients that your body craves in order to function at a high level. Not only will eating vegetables leave you satisfied, but also it will help improve your performance throughout the day, in class or at practice. The vitamins present in leafy greens like spinach and broccoli greatly increase your mental capacity and overall well-being, while also fulfilling cravings that potato chips cannot satisfy. You simply can’t go wrong with a hearty vegetable to fill your stomach and your heart. PS: Tomatoes will forever be a vegetable in my mind and I’m sorry to anyone I offend. You have been trigger-warned.
2. Your Jeans > The Scale
Scales: the doctor’s office version of your dreaded elementary school gym class…the test you didn’t study for…the inconsistently moody roommate you got reluctantly paired with. In my humble opinion, scales are far from being the ideal gauge of one’s health. That little number fluctuates on a whim and will go up or down based on its own location, as well as your water retention, bowel movements, the time of day (or month), the weather and your exercise regime. If you struggle with the scale, I offer you a better solution that is far less temperamental; otherwise known as “jeans.” Winter is a tempting time to live in sweatpants and leggings, but occasionally throwing on a pair of jeans can help you gauge where your body is at. This is also a great combat tool for anyone who experiences body dysmorphia.
3. Pretend Your Life Is a Movie
This is, perhaps, my favorite piece of advice. The cold, gray, barren wasteland that is winter has a tendency to suck the life out of many individuals’ willingness to make the trek to the gym. I’m going to go out on a limb, however, and offer you some advice that probably contradicts your natural instinct: get outside. I dare you to allot yourself 20 minutes to jog during the first snowfall, or do some circuits when the Esplanade freezes over. Now, don’t feel as though you need to contract hypothermia in order to get a quality burn on (i.e., use your head), but take a chance and push yourself out of your comfort zone. I say, “pretend your life is a movie,” because the experience this attitude brings you is unforgettable; jogging through the snow-covered Commons, or crunching your way into oblivion as the sun glistens off of your ice-covered world is absolutely something you’d see in an upcoming story of a young, triumphant athlete who beats the odds. Seriously—pop in your headphones and you’ve got both a soundtrack and a blockbuster.
All in all, the way you conduct your winter is a deeply personal choice. These are simply the musings of a fitness-lover who hates cold toes and cold noses and cold fingers but loves cookies shaped like little reindeer. We’re all human, temptation is real and weight gain isn’t the end of the world—it can even be necessary sometimes! These pointers are for those of us that hope to enjoy the colder months in contentment and emerge on the other side as the happiest and healthiest humans we can be. So, get excited for winter! Don’t lose sight of your health as the temperature numbs our ability to function; instead, put on some Eye of the Tiger, grab those running shoes and handle it.