RBR reader Ed writes, “I’m turning 54 this year. To distract myself, I’ve spent the last two months on road trips to Oregon, Arizona and Colorado to visit friends.
“I also was sick for several weeks in November and then had a respiratory bug earlier this month.
“My biking has suffered, even though there is more to life than biking. I’ve sort of lost my mojo and I miss it. And I think I’ve lost weight from losing muscle mass. My midriff is getting a little thicker, but I’m down several pounds from where I’ve been. Yes, I have gone a week or so at a time without riding.
“What’s missing for me is having the motivation for riding, exercises, stretching and core work. As much as I try to at least do my stretching routine with push-ups and planks, I just don’t have the motivation.”
Coach Hughes responds, Winter doldrums are pretty common. Shorter days, colder weather and less outdoor activities all have an effect. You may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression related to changes in seasons. Symptoms typically start in the fall and continue into the winter, sapping your mojo. The Mayo Clinic lists these symptoms:
- Feeling listless, sad or down most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy and feeling sluggish
- Having problems with sleeping too much
- Experiencing carbohydrate cravings, overeating and weight gain
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having thoughts of not wanting to live
Do these symptoms describe you? Don’t brush off this yearly feeling as just a case of the “winter blues” you have to suffer through on your own. Here are four ways to deal with the winter blues.
1. Light therapy
I suffered from the winter blues for years and was finally diagnosed with SAD. My doctor suggested I try light therapy. She recommended using a 10,000-lux light box or lamp for about 20 minutes within the first hour of waking up. I set one up in front of my trainer and it seems to make a difference.
Talk with your health care provider. You may have an underlying physical condition, e.g., your thyroid may not be functioning correctly. Ask about light therapy. You can read more here:
2. You’re not lazy
Don’t be hard on yourself for not riding, doing planks, stretching, etc. Recognize you have a medical condition. You aren’t just lazy.
3. Daily exercise
Think about your day. When do you feel most sluggish? When do you have a bit more energy? When you’re feeling more energetic get some exercise — any kind of exercise — if your schedule allows you to.
You may know the recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine. You should exercise aerobically about 30 minutes most days of the week and should strength train at least twice a week and should do stretching and balance exercises. Forget about the shoulds. Try for 10 or 15 minutes doing something physical most days.
4. Daily diet
What is your daily eating pattern? Do you skip or have a small breakfast, a quick lunch at McDonald’s and then the typical big American dinner? Try to shift your eating pattern to six smaller meals a day:
- Mid-morning snack
- Mid-afternoon snack
- Evening snack
Don’t increase what you eat; just spread it out.
Changes in your glucose levels also affect your mood. Glucose comes from carbs, which should be the majority of your daily calories. You can read more in this column on:
I’ve also written a column on:
My eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process includes interviews with Elizabeth Wicks, Gabe Mirkin, Jim Langley, Andy Pruitt and eight other male and female roadies ages 55 to 83. They emphasize the value of intrinsically enjoying an activity rather than doing it because it’s good for you. They describe many ways to adapt positively to the aging process. They talk about changing exercise goals over time. The final chapters are on Motivation and on Sticking With It. Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process incorporates the latest research and most of it is new material not published in my previous eArticles on cycling past 50, 60 and beyond. It’s your comprehensive guide to continuing to ride well into your 80s and even your 90s. The 106-page eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process is available for $14.99.
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written over 40 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John’s full bio.