Use winter chill to sharpen summer goals
Yesterday was the shortest day, the day in which the sun at noon is at its lowest point in the sky. You may not have noticed, but the sun rose and set further north on our horizon than on any other day of the year.
The actual moment when the sun was at its most northern point in the sky in the southern hemisphere was 6.26pm, although we didn't see that here in New Zealand.
Those details are academic, as we all know that the worst of winter always comes after the shortest day and from here, summer takes a painfully long time to arrive.
However, it's a symbolic time. We have mid-winter swims and dinners and if we have time we think about where we've been and where we're going.
It's a better time to make resolutions than New Year, because physically we're at a low ebb, thinking about porridge, hot soup, stews, dark beer and red wine.
We may also be snuffling with a cold, our fitness resolutions have gone out the window, we're getting fat and exercise is not an attractive option, because it's cold and raining.
In short, things can only get better, so why not make a fitness plan?
There's no question that better fitness can only improve your life, helping you with health and optimism.
Many of the people I know have a bias towards fitness and they love to do events. For most of them it's a habit.
About 50 Nelson triathletes, runners and swimmers have qualified for the New Zealand team to compete in the world triathlon or aquathlon championships to be held in Auckland in October, so they will not need any prompting to get out and train.
One of my workmates, who is a fit fellow but as far as I know has never done a triathlon, is planning to do either the full ironman distance at Wanaka in January, or a six-day adventure race in Queenstown in February. Taking on something this radical can be a life-changing decision and it's not a bad idea to enter now while you have time to plan (or change your mind).
Many women are taking on the Spring Challenge, which this year is being held in Methven in late September.
Down at the pool I see people training to improve their form so that they can take on the Port Nelson Sea Swim Series next summer. A new startline innovation will make the swims less intimidating for newcomers in the season ahead, allowing groups of different abilities more room as they get under way.
Not everyone wants to take on an event. Just wanting to be more fit doesn't mean that you want to front up among other people, who always seem to be fitter, more experienced and have more friends than you do.
However, as anyone who's taken on an organised run, bike ride or swim for the first time knows, the reality is that the start line is cluttered with people who have insecurities and don't think they're good enough to be there.
It's worth overcoming that and fronting up. The benefit is that once you are into the routine of events, it's easier to keep coming back and then you have an incentive to keep training in a regular way. If you want a fitness goal, an event is a sure-fire way to get you motivated.
For many people, fitness and exercise is completely private. If that's you, then other challenges are needed.
Get a dog. If you need a reason to exercise, a dog is a good one. Your best friend will need a walk at least once a day and special trips to the beach or some other prime exercise spot will ensure you stay active.
Plan a tramp or some other long walk. You'll love the experience and the preparation will give you a regular reason to exercise.
Whatever it takes – the weather is bad now, but it's going to get better. Plan your strategy to get out of the armchair – you'll live longer and better if you do.
- © Fairfax NZ News