Ten things to do on a cold winter’s day

Winter is the one time of year that we shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying indoor activities. Cold, wet weather and reduced hours of daylight make if challenging to get outside as much as we would like. Sure, it’s great to stay active where we can, by going to the gym or for a swim in an indoor pool if the weather is miserable, but there are also plenty of other fun things we can do to while away winter days. 

1. Get creative
Winter is a great time of year to indulge you inner-creative. Perhaps there’s a craft activity you’ve being longing to try, an adult colouring image you’d love to colour, or a picture you’d love to draw or paint. 

ACTION: Make a list of some creative activities you’d love to try and aim to do one a week. You’ll get an enormous sense of satisfaction from creating and making things on a regular basis, plus using your hands is great therapy and mindfulness practice. 

You could use ‘the fruits of your labour’ as gifts for friend’s birthdays, or put them away as Christmas presents, which will make you feel organised and save you some money at Christmas time. 

2. Read a book 
I have a never-ending list of fiction and non-fiction books I’d love to read. I try to schedule some reading time every day (even just a few minutes/pages of a book) so I feel like I’m slowly making progress to finish a book. There’s nothing more discouraging than having five books that you never seem to finish on the go at once. Reading multiple books at once is totally fine, but just make the effort to finish one every now and again to feel like you’re moving in the right direction. During winter, it seems even easier to snatch a few minutes here and there to read. 

ACTION: Make a list of five books you’d love to read and stock up on Amazon, or visit your local library.

3. Get some fresh winter air
Nothing wakes up the mind and body like a few deep breaths of fresh winter air. Regardless of how cold it is, try to make the effort to rug up (with scarf, hat and gloves if necessary) and get outdoors. It’s a bonus if it’s a sunny winter’s day because you can top up your vitamin D at the same time. 

ACTION: Step outside and take at least five deep, slow breaths. Repeat every time you step outside 

4. Bank some sleep
Never underestimate the power of getting a good night’s sleep. I’ve always subscribed to the philosophy of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”, but the reality is that if we don’t get enough sleep, we might be dead sooner! Shorter days mean that winter is a great time to catch up on sleep, or if the weather is really miserable, there’s nothing nicer than snuggling up for an afternoon nap. Unconvinced? Check out the benefits in Arianna Huffington’s new book, The Sleep Revolution. It will revolutionise the way you think about sleep. 

ACTION: Record how much sleep you’re getting each night. If it’s less than 8 hours, aim to increase to 8 or 9 hours for a week and see how you feel. 

5. Meditate
More time spent in doors also means more time for things like meditation. Meditation is a fabulous way of clearing your mind and relaxing your body. There are plenty of different types of meditation, such as: guided meditation, mindful meditation, transcendental meditation, yoga meditation, Buddhist meditation, Vipassana meditation, Chinese meditation, and even prayer. You might need to do a bit of research to find the best technique for you. 

ACTION: Research different type of meditation to find one that suits you. Check out free mindful meditation podcasts such as Meditation Oasis from Mary Maddux, or Tara Brach’s podcast

6. Binge-watch a box set or movies
Box-sets are a fabulous concept, created for impatient people like me who can’t wait a whole week to watch the next episode. A date with your doona, a box-set series and a hot drink (or a glass of wine) is a great way to spend a cold winter’s day or evening. If you want to be social, get some friends around and make a day or night of it. With most TV series now available as box sets, the hardest thing is deciding what to watch! If movies are more your thing, make a list of the movies you want to see and refer to it the next time you have a night in so you can watch something you really want to see. 

ACTION: Make a list of the movies or box sets you’d like to watch and add these to your Christmas or birthday list. 

7. Batch cook meals
We often associate winter with hearty foods such as stews, soups, and curries. These are all meals that can be prepared ahead of time, and cooked in big batches to make multiple meals to enjoy later. 

If the house is feeling cold, flip on the oven (it will warm you house if nothing else!) and get cooking. Before you know it, you’ll have a hearty selection of dishes that are great to freeze and reheat the next time you can’t be bothered cooking (and want to save your wallet and waistline from another take-away meal). Take your batch-cooked meals to work, and you’ll save your lunch money too. 

ACTION: Stock up on vegetables and cheaper cuts of meat (such as chuck steak) for slow cooking in your next grocery shop. Search the web for inspiring new stew, curry and slow-cooker recipes. 

8. Host a dinner party
Whilst you’re in the mood to cook, why not host a dinner party? It doesn’t have to be fancy cuisine (who doesn’t love a home-cooked roast?!) and it’s a great way to connect with friends you haven’t seen for a while. If you can’t be bothered cooking, then get everyone to pitch in and bring a dish or order in take-away and split the bill. 

ACTION: Get a date in the diary for your next dinner party. Quite often the hardest step is finding a date that suits everyone. 

9. Get a massage 
Forget what the weather’s doing outside by staying warm and cosy inside and getting a nice relaxing massage. Massages don’t have to be expensive – you can opt for a shorter one of 30 minutes or less and still get the relaxation benefits. Massages are also a nice treat after a tough workout session, so hit the gym first, and follow this up with a well-earned massage. 

ACTION: Track down your local massage shop and make an appointment so you have something to look forward to. 

10. Have a bath 
There’s a lot to be said for a nice hot bath on a cold winter’s evening. To make your bath experience even more luxurious, add some essential oils, baths salts, or bubble bath. Grab a book, a glass of wine, apply a face mask and get ready to relax! 

ACTION: Source some good quality essential oils, bubble bath and bath salts. Scents that include lavender are particularly relaxing. 

How to run a fast 10km race: Ali Cavill’s top tips

The Australian Running Festival (Canberra) is just over three weeks away. I have registered to do the 10km race and am feeling pretty excited. Apart from a head-cold, training has been going pretty well. Having run a few 10km races before, I am familiar with the distance, but I’ve plateaued. I’m at the point where I keep running the same time and not improving my time as much as I would like.

So my big question is: How do I run a faster 10km race?

I went on the hunt for some expert advice, and Ali Cavill (Head Trainer and Owner of Fit Fantastic) kindly shared some of her wisdom below…

“My two favourite exercises to boost your strength and running skills, for myself as well as a Personal Trainer, are the squat and plyometric exercises. I use these exercises to train my clients for better running fitness and ability and they are an ideal exercise to add to your preparation and training schedule for any upcoming obstacle style running races, such as Greatest Athlete race!” says Ali.

Ali Cavill from Fit Fantastic

1) Leg press or squat
Attempt to lower the weight in a slow and controlled manner. A heavy weight used should be used, and only 2 sets of each exercise should be completed, with a long rest between each. The number of reps should not exceed 12, and like the strength endurance training, single leg exercises are advised where possible.

2) Plyomterics (lunges)
Explosive power improving endurance performance. For runners, explosive power developed primarily through plyometric exercises (jumps) and sprints, can help reduce ground contact time. Alternate leg lunges, jumping from one to the other with back knee close to the ground. Propulsion using front heel. Running arms to maintain stability and power.

The exercises should be added to your training regime in sets of 8-10 and repeated 2 or 3 times. 3 times a week in any athlete’s regime will see you adding explosion and spring in your step!
These running tips were kindly shared with us by Ali Cavill, Health & Wellness Expert and Owner, Fit Fantastic. Ali is Head Trainer and Owner of Fit Fantastic, a leading health and fitness company, and is a renowned “face” of health and fitness. She is a Fitness Ambassador for Centre for Health Brain Ageing (CHeBA) UNSW and Australian Sports Nutrition (ASN), Brand Ambassador for Rockwear Gym Clothing and a Warrior for Australian Institute of Fitness. Connect with Ali via her Facebook page, on Twitter or Instagram: alifitfantastic

How do you prepare for a fun run or improve your running time?
We’d love your thoughts – please comment below…