When I wrote last week’s column, about the fresh promise of a snow day, little did we know the snow day would stretch on for two more days. More than 20 people died in the United States due to the polar vortex, and temperature records were smashed on both sides of the border.
Locally, roads were closed for days due to drifting snow and bitter cold. St. Marys proper felt rather deserted due to the lack of traffic and pedestrians. Never mind the negative temperatures or driving; the mere act of walking through layers of snow and ice proved challenging to even the most sure-footed amongst us.
But the light at the end of the vortex was visible. Forecasters were calling for less-frigid temperatures long before the deep freeze even hit, but when you’re facing historic cold, anything less negative can be hard to fathom. By week’s end, we were walking around without fear of freezing or falling down; it’s funny how quickly we come to miss this feeling.
While the weekend’s ease of movement was due to melting, there are steps you can take – pardon the pun – to ensure that you’re as sure-footed as possible, regardless of the weather.
It’s easy to ignore most health-related stories at this time of year, as they usually trumpet restrictive and trendy diets and rigorous workout regimes. But a recent National Post article looked beyond these trendy topics to focus on some oft-neglected aspects of physical health. The author, a kinesiologist, suggested that in addition to cardiovascular exercise and weight training, people looking to improve their fitness should also work out their balance skills, flexibility and athleticism.
Loss of balance skills leads to falls, which can be devastating, especially as we age, although there are people of all ages who aren’t light on their feet. The article suggested exercises as simple as standing on one foot while doing weights at the gym, but I don’t see why you can’t do the same while washing dishes or doing any other standing task, if you don’t have a gym membership. Many yoga postures can improve balance, as well as flexibility.
But flexibility goes beyond bending yourself into a pretzel. Muscles that aren’t stiff or tight aren’t in pain, and can respond faster to changing conditions, whether it’s a slippery spot on the sidewalk or a sudden turn of the neck. No special equipment is required for a stretching routine; everyone has a doorway to stretch out chest muscles, or a step for leg muscles. The author suggests that people should be stretching every day, even if they’re not necessarily doing anything athletic (and if you are, stretching is that much more important).
Athleticism isn’t something people think can be developed, but the article argues otherwise, saying that predictable exercise movements – like jogging or weight lifting – don’t challenge the body’s ability to face unpredictable situations. Switch up your gym routine regularly; try a new class or a new cardio machine to fire up different muscle groups. In the real world (safely) test your balance by walking on curb edges or uneven surfaces, or join the youngsters on the jungle gym come spring.
Combined, these three aspects make your body more nimble; if you’ve ever envied how children can bounce about with ease, you know what you’re missing. As ever, if you’re not the most mobile person, consult your doctor or a trusted professional first to develop a plan. As for the rest of us, there is a host of resources online, at the library, or at your gym of choice.
After all, no one likes being snowed in – whether it’s by six feet surrounding you or six steps ahead of you.
Just when winter seems its darkest, citrus fruits come into season. Filled with Vitamin C and bright flavour, they promise summer’s return. Here’s a taste.
Grapefruit Vinaigrette w/ Broccoli
1 pink grapefruit
1 tsp. mild honey
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sherry vinegar or cider vinegar
2 tbsp. grapeseed or sunflower oil
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 bunch broccoli, broken into florets, stems peeled and chopped
Squeeze half of the grapefruit. Measure out 1/3 cup of juice and place in a small saucepan. Add honey and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to 1/4 cup and remove from heat. Whisk in salt, vinegar, and the oils.
Cut away peel and pith from the remaining grapefruit half. Cut sections away from the membranes dividing them and chop fine. Stir into the vinaigrette.
Steam the broccoli for four minutes and transfer to a platter or to plates. Spoon the vinaigrette over the florets and serve. Serves four.