13 Awesome Ways to Stay Healthy and Fit this Winter


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You have kept the fire lit. From January to October / November (give or take a few slip ups and week long relapses) you have been on track and taken good care of yourself.

Enter the silly season, holiday season, Xmas celebration and Winter months. And cue the derailment. It doesn’t have to be like this. Yet it is. In fact the research is pretty clear – there are some more than others who are at a bigger risk of piling on the pounds. As a personal trainer and gym owner in Maynooth I have seen this 1st hand over the last 15 years.

Those with a healthy weight that has been maintained for a good length of time, the weight gain is minimal. In fact over time we gain weight (0.2-0.8kg per year) which is minimal really. Perhaps this is due to the habits that have been built over time.

But the holiday season is a different story and it really boils down to where you are at right now and where you have been in the past.

With Healthy subjects,  the subjects believed they had gained four times as much weight as their actual holiday weight gain of 0.37 kg. Hardly anything to write home about.

It turns out if you are obese then you are very likely to gain weight 0.2kg vs 1kg

And if you have been overweight you are at risk too!

So what to do?

The diversity of groups would point in most cases to the need to address the basics of calories and activity levels but also figure out how to tee-up our environment for success and pick up strategies when we are out partying.

The key is out of all these habits PICK THE ONE HABIT THAT WILL HAVE THE BIGGEST KNOCK ON. If you struggle with food then maybe you need to JUST focus on prepping your meals better. Or of you struggle with exercise then maybe you need to work on a few ‘If and then’ scenarios’



Exercise and Training

Keep it up – something is better than nothing

Looking at actual daily calorie expenditure it figures it would be prudent to look at your activity levels outside of gym visits considering it can be as high as 20% of calorie burn. Where possible stay active. Here are some ideas:-

  • Use a Fitbit or activity tracker to prod you into more action
  • Walk the dog – there are some great places around Maynooth
  • Take frequent mini walks
  • If you can get a sweat on do it for a period of time that is manageable. 10 minutes is fine.

If and Then

This is something that I borrowed from The Marshmallow Test by Walter Mischel. If A happens then do B. It allows you to fall back on something. If I can’t make the gym then I will do a 15 minute home-workout like one you can find here using my 10 x 10 x 10 routine. If I am busy in the morning then I will prepare some meals in advance.


Train with purpose

Now is a good time to grab a routine that works all major muscle groups. A couple of routines I like are Dr. Michael Yessis’ 1 x 20 and a giant set alternating upper and lower body exercises for sets of 10-12 reps and minimal rest. Great cardio as well as strength and very time effective.



Doing a little 5 minute routine through the day is a great way to stay on top of niggles and ensure you are keeping flexible and mobile. Night time stretching is a great way to wind down and relax but also exercise through the day seems to improve sleep patterns and cognitive behaviour too! Have a look at our You tube channel for some ideas on and where to address your issues.

HIIT Sessions are effective

The jury is out at the moment when you look at the research on cardio. All I know is you are best just doing something rather than nothing and if you are short on time then HIIT sessions are a useful tool. 5-20 second sprints on cardio machines repeated with rest intervals are a good place to start and very easy to just ‘do’. 1 – 2 times per week work well. Try some of the parks in Maynooth!



Calories count (and always will)

No matter what school of diet practice you belong to calories count. The trick is to make them count. Grab the food record, the myfitnesspal app and start recording. The behavioural aspect of recording and journaling makes this effective. If combined with accountability groups and direct support then this will help too.

Prep or Think Ahead

In my opinion, allowing yourself time each day to prep ahead pays dividends in the long run. Knowing what you will have maybe 2-3 days in advance makes all the difference in the subsequent shopping habits, food choices and calorie consumption. You can do this with pen and paper or add in the meals you intend on eating within the myfitnesspal app.

Add in some protein at each meal

Adding in some protein at each meal (roughly 20-30g of protein per serving) will help you feel fuller and potentially stave off cravings, enhance recovery, assist in the preservation or building of lean muscle tissue (for life folks, not Arnie here….) but also deeper underlying benefits such as the production of hormones in our body, immunity, enzymes, building blood, cartilage, skin and you get the idea. Proteins are an important component of every cell in our body. There are some great butchers in and around Maynooth – make sure you make them your best friends!!


Add in more fibre to your diet

Adding in some fibre to our diet will help normalise bowel movements, normalise your weight, stabilise blood sugar levels, maintain a healthy balanced cholesterol score and so much more! The feeling of fullness or sateity this time of year is key to ward off the sugar cravings!

Supplement with Vitamin D

A recent study looking at Ireland suggested that 1 in 4 over 50s were deficient in this vital ‘vitamin’ that may be classified as a hormone. At this time of year it is particularly alarming. As my colleague Dr Wilson recommends

In the absence of adequate sunlight, as during the winter months, vitamin D should be taken as an oral supplement, and dosages of 2000 units to 5000 units, or more, may be required to maintain protective blood levels in the region of 50 – 80 ng/ml.


Alcohol is empty calories and in the same vein puts a strain on the system. With regards to calories, pints, bottles of wine and complex mixers very quickly add up. A days worth of calories can be consumed in 1 episode or your average over the week can also be distorted with a couple of glasses here and there every night (if they are not accounted for).

Work them  into your calorie budget. Drink bottles instead of pints. Alternate a soda water with a alcoholic drink. Use gin or vodka with ice or soda water instead of adding in sugary mixers.



Sleep Hygiene

The daylight saving hours certainly have folks in a tizzy and rightly so. In some cases it has had negative outcomes on behaviour and cognitive performance aka thinking clearly. Mad right? I mean winter can’t be found in Maynooth right?

Now is the time to try and bed in a good sleep routine getting to bed at the same time, waking up at the same time, avoiding electronics too close to bedtime and seeking help IF you feel you have a sleep disorder pattern.

Sleep is crucial to health and without it on a more superficial level your health and fitness decisions with diet, exercise and lifestyle really suffer after a bad nigh’ts sleep.

Stress Management

With the ‘longer days’ frequent partying, late nights, lack of movement and activity stress levels can mount.

What is your release? Are you activity scheduling time to train, exercise, wind down or ‘play’? Are you making it a point to get up and go to bed at regular times? Are you maybe journaling your thoughts, ideas and goals to put you in a positive mindset rather than become reactive to the day ahead? Are you eating well or putting more stress on the system via your food and drink choices?

Stress is multi-faceted and all encompassing but the above give you a place to look to begin to address those ‘weak points’ in the chain.


This time of year can be challenging but only if you let it become this. Far better to be proactive in your approach and look at which areas of your behaviour need addressing.

And if you need help why not check out Sphere Fitness and their 21 Day Programme that is designed to give you all the tools to make this a great time of year.

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