Change yourself for transition season - Kansas City Star

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Adventure Sports Weekly (

Adventure Sports Weekly (

Updated: 2011-09-21T10:07:28Z

Once again, it's a transition season. If you're serious about one or more sports, it's important to get your body (and mind) ready for the decreasing hours of daylight and the colder temperatures.

The first place to start is with your diet. Many rec athletes go through an "OH, NO! FAT!" syndrome. It starts when the season causes an expected drop in activity. Meanwhile the holidays, centered on food, approach. The natural result is the body puts on fat. It's harder to zip up jeans, tops get tight. This may not even be reflected on the scale, since fat weighs so much less than muscle. But your body may not look as trim or athletic as it did just a month or so ago.

The first, and most unfortunate, urge is to go on a diet so you'll look good at holiday parties. But that's a bad idea. Remember, as an athlete, you're probably not going to suddenly switch to a sedentary life style - you'll still be training and keeping your body in shape, and often doing some indoor or outdoor winter sport as well. But to really keep your body in shape during winter, especially if you do a snow sport, you need a layer of protective fat.

There are two important reasons for this. The first is, your metabolism strives to maintain the body at the same temperature, regardless of conditions. It takes energy to keep the body warm in cold weather. The body obtains this energy by burning fat. If you don't have enough excess fat to create the heat your body needs, your system will burn muscle. So even a gain of 10 pounds or so in autumn is nothing to stress over; if you spend much time outdoors, you'll burn it off by mid-winter.

The second reason to keep that layer of fat is for insulation. I once knew an elite ski racer who was on her way to the Olympics, but would not allow her body to put on fat during the fall transition season. As a result, she was always cold. The energy she should have had on the race course went instead to a vain attempt to keep her body warm. But cold muscles are stiff and slow. Her results plummeted, she was dropped from the national team, and her promising career was over - all because she put her body image ahead of what she needed as an athlete.

After diet, another important transitional change is sunlight. If you've spent a lot of time outdoors in brief clothing during the past four or five months, your body has received a lot of healthy vitamin D, which comes from sunshine. Cutting this drastically down can cause seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, a type of depression. You can prevent or reverse this by taking the D supplement on a daily basis.

Be careful about temperatures. If you go out for a run or bike ride in cold weather, it's not a good thing to be suddenly hitting your nasal membranes and lungs with frigid air. Put some kind of a warming screen, even if it's only a bandana folded into a triangle, over your nose and mouth.

And finally, remember that it's even more important to warm up before getting into hard activity during these cooler temperatures. Cold muscles are almost 50 percent slower, which could be dangerous if you rush into a sport that requires quick reactions before your muscles have been properly warmed up. To get warmed up without physical stress, all you have to do is start out slow and gradually build up the intensity of your activity. By adjusting to the transition season, your athletic performance won't suffer a winter wither, but will maintain a constant spring.

21 Sep, 2011

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