It’s late winter. We’ve had the Solstice. We’ve had Christmas. We’ve had the mid-winter holidays. We have in fact had whichever marker it is when your culture turns from darkness and the old, to lightness and the new – if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere.
What does this have to do with training? Well, we are primates. Do primates hibernate? Some ursines do. Some rodents do. Some reptiles do it. Even butterflies do it. But we do not (though I acknowledge that some historical anthropologists argue over this one).
But the real question is, how do you feel? There is a part of me that wants to hibernate, to pull the bedcovers over my head and re-emerge with the spring flowers. But life does not let that happen. We still have to get up and get on with the business of living. And most experts agree that physical exercise helps.
Even if you do not suffer from SAD (all right, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or Winter Blues) training during the Winter can be a bit challenging. It’s not just the training itself. It’s packing your kit before it’s even light outside and bringing it with you so you can go training in the evening. It’s going home after training when it’s hours after sundown and actually you missed that anyway whilst you were working.
We get it. It’s a tough time of year mentally. But physically, there are gains to be had. This is a brilliant time to work on strength, and on technique,
Here at Fujian White Crane Kung Fu we work technique all year round because you never know when you might need it, and to be honest, if you don’t work your technique then what is the point of training at all? But Winter is also a great time to concentrate on building physical strength. Summer is a time for jumping in the air, running for miles to explore new places, finding pastures new, Winter is the time to stay in one place, and appreciate the safety that comes from familiarity, to perfect, and to build the muscular strength needed to face another year.
So at Fujian White Crane Kung Fu, in our Winter we are not working so much on aerobic prowess but on deep-down strength. This is not the “core strength” demanded of so many sports, though we work that too. Deep-down strength is about training when you don’t feel like it, training to feel tough, training to feel amazing. The recipe? Iron-bridge, low horse stance, deep sit-ups, extreme press-ups, plus technique, two-person exercises, unexpected combinations that tax your brain.
Winter training is about training because you want to feel great right now not because you want to look great (well, maybe ok) on a beach this summer. If you just want to look good, do the burpees challenge in the Spring and let’s see you on the beach. We’ll be in Crete in July, so whenever you’re ready…..
Winter training tips:
- Pack your kit and take it with you on days you normally go training. First thing in the morning it may feel like you don’t want to go, but taking your kit with you lets you change your mind later (especially if you take the recommended “smoking breaks” – see 4 below).
- Bring your favourite chocolate milk (or equivalent) for after training, and be ready for the post-training discussion about the relative merits of your choice. Chocolate milk helps with replenishing muscle glycogen and avoiding next-day soreness.
- Set up a meal in your slow-cooker to provide you with collagen, protein, and micro-nutrients when you get home from training. Over the years, each instructor has developed their favourite recipes for their slow cooker, so ask them!
- Get some natural daylight into your eyeballs during the day. You might have “full daylight spectrum” lightbulbs but our evolution is not fooled so easily. Even if you just walk outside to pretend to take a smoking break (“pretend” being the operative word). Look up at the sky and smile.
- Give it some muscle! Use your strength and build it – your aerobic capacity will improve during springtime – right now let’s use that muscle mass to burn those winter calories and keep you warm. Think of this when you are in class and tempted to go for the huff-and-puff rather than the deep burn.
- Be ready for the cold outside the training hall. Think of yourself as a racehorse and have a good rub-down with a towel to dry off. Then dress warmly enough to go home. Hats and scarves help to slow down heat loss, and gloves keep your already warmed hand joints (from all that technique practice) in a safe environment.
- And remember why you wanted to train in the first place – that doesn’t change just because it’s cold and dark outside.
You might not feel like it, but this is a fantastic time of year to keep turning up to class and be strong. And if you keep it up, you won’t even have to think about that body for the beach – that’s taking care of itself. You’ll be more interested in what your lower crane block can do for you. See you in sparring!
Hmmm, sparring – that’s a whole new reason to keep on training through the winter. When was that competition again?