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Kitty Shea
From Live Better America
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The Size Of My Winter Thighs

Everything about summer supports my bodily ideal: the salads, the swimming, the sunlight. It's easy to feel the "Whee!" when your spirit, calorie burn and healthy glow are free, free, free. I dive in, a middle-aged schoolgirl counting her play days until September and falling, giddy and exhausted, into bed each night, windows open and alarm clock set.

And then it's over, gone, both the season and the body reduced to a shiver, stilled by gray skies, oppressed under the blanket of seasonal fact. I'll be honest: A tiny part of me welcomes the pause, the dawn-to-dusk debauchery having left me tired and hungry. Largely, though, I manage to cling to my summer me until November, when early darkness drives me toward a different light, one whose radiance is contained only by a door. Opening the refrigerator, I reach for comfort foods to assuage my discomfort with the calendar before crawling under the comforter, the fridge door open all this uncomfortable time, my weight shifting from foot to foot and season to season.

The light takes me to a dark place. I skip first one and then another workout, my cold-weather athletic wear still in storage, see, and my kid needing help with algebra homework. (And we all know what a big help I am with algebra homework!) Day three's dodge ensures that my return to the pool/road/class/weight room will hurt, the dread of which extends my rest and recovery "day," singular, to four days. I passively change my status to weekend athlete.

Whereupon my thighs start to touch. And then rub. And then chafe. I feel my belly fold over the car seatbelt. My summer jeans dig into my crotch, their denim providing, at least and at last, tangible evidence that the problem exists outside myself. I pounce: "Our new clothes dryer sure runs hot; these babies shrank." "My tailor sure got sewing machine happy when she took these in." "Man, I sure was delusional when I bought these, thinking I'd ever fit in them."

I wasn't delusional; I was just my summer size and summer self.

Forced to dig out my forgiving winter jeans, I accept my flesh as real, a cue to begin highbrow justification. I call upon my inner physical anthropologist, who assures me that cream-filled bites and feeble butt-plants are but primal responses to nature's slowing beat. My body genetically knows to add padding for protection against winter's cold. The fall harvest is aptly timed so animals and humans can fatten up for winter. Early spring food stocks, after all, will be low when we lumber out of hibernation. So there! Winter weight gain isn't my doing; it's programmed into my being.

Trouble is, this anthropological cream pie exists only in my head and is whipped together independent of any proven science. Our ancestors didn't have light bulbs to extend daytime. Their heat sources didn't come with programmable thermostats. Bears can't go to grocery stores, which are now stocked year-round with fresh and processed foods.

My case crumbling, I pull out the big guns: the Old Testament, whose Book of Ecclesiastes assures that "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven." Enough said?

Ah, but righteousness is a mental exercise. My body is still heavy and my spirit heavier still. Making healthy choices is a breeze in the summer, but she who's doing the choosing remains the same. I'm the one making the choices that determine my weight, I mean, fate.

And so I hereby choose to honor the restorative gift that is winter; to rest well, eat wisely and read books under the covers. I choose to believe there's a winter "Whee!" out there for me, its own sweet spin on my summer esprit. Should its pursuit shrink my thighs, I shall skip around the kitchen in my summer jeans, opening the refrigerator door just long enough for its light to dance with my own.

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  • Mountain climbers for outdoor running.

    This exercise is great for strengthening your core and legs. The quick pace gets your heart rate up stay in shape for running. Begin on the floor in plank position (on all fours, with back parallel to ground), then shuffle one foot forward into the lung position and quickly alternate feet.

  • Jumping rope for tennis.

    The calf- and upper body-toning workout will help you stay in tennis shape during the winter months. It also keeps your feet moving quickly so you can glide across the tennis court.

  • Home resistance band for kayaking.

    You can get a total-body workout with a resistance band, however, it is excellent for training the upper back. Wrap the band around a pole or attach it to a door, then pull back and do standard rows, high row, and reverse flies. With these three moves, you’ll be in shape when it’s time to get back on the water.

  • Treadmill intervals for track workouts.

    No need to sacrifice your speed (or sanity) to the cold weather. Challenge yourself by changing your pace every few minutes. Interval workouts will get you out of your comfort zone and show your muscles how to move at a faster pace.

  • Burpees for flag football.

    Increase your cardio endurance and strength with burpees. Stand upright, then jump down into a squat with hands and feet on the ground; kick your feet back into plank position, squat again and then jump upward as high as possible. Repeat.

  • Squat jumps for beach volleyball.

    Squat jumps will be sure to keep your glutes and thighs in shape, and will help develop quick power in your leg muscles.

  • Yoga for walking outdoors.

    Do yoga in the comfort of your home or at the local studio. Yoga is more than a flexibility exercise; it is calming to the mind and body – quite like taking a long summer stroll. Meditation and relaxation are key components to physical health, and what better opportunity to develop that mental muscle in the winter months?

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