Adjusting To The Darker Months, One Day At A Time

At the stroke of midnight on November 4th, the clock on most of your “smart” devices immediately fell back one hour without any effort on your part. Your body, however, did not synchronize with the recent time change quite as seamlessly. The internal clock within the human body does not reprogram itself very quickly; implying that the time shift in the fall and the spring can influence your performance (and furthermore, your health) in unexpected ways.

Your internal “clock” (known as, circadian rhythm) is highly sensitive to light. This “clock” helps regulate essential functions like sleep and metabolism. Increasingly, there's evidence that if these rituals — such as when eating and sleeping — fall out of sync with your internal clock, it can be harmful to health and performance. 

With less daylight, it can be easier to fall into unproductive habits; lacking daylight can even throw off things like socialization and emotional health. If normal habits, or rituals such as those can be thrown off, so can training. It is important to prepare yourself physically and mentally so that movement, nutrition, and recovery don’t “fall backwards” with the change of time. The three tips below are suggestions to help you adapt to the change, and not find your training taking a step backwards. 

Become a member of a running, cycling, climbing or ski club, or another group activity. Winter can bring social isolation; do not hibernate and limit your interactions with others. Find a sport, gym, or other form of engagement that creates opportunity to connect with likeminded people – you may also find that your training benefits as a result. Working with a coach will also be of high value – that added accountability and communication will push you to “keep going” when you may lack the enthusiasm to do so.

Focus on foods that nourish. The change in temperature and exposure to sunlight, among other changes, can affect your immune system more than realized. Eating nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods rich in healthy fats, protein, and the nutrients vitamins C, A, B, and D can support overall immune system function; each Mountain Ready athlete can work with our talented nutritionist who will help customize a “winter-proof” nutritional strategy.

Go to bed earlier. As the clocks turn back, you want to maximize your exposure to daylight in the morning hours, since it gets dark so early in the evening. Lacking sleep can send signals to the body to store fat and slow down physical recovery, so getting plenty of shut-eye is key to good health.

Devin Vernick, MS, CSCS, SCCC, USAW- L1, Onnit Academy Steel Mace Specialist | Performance Specialist | c 404.509.2822 | Intel Micron Flash Technologies, 4000 N Flash Drive, Lehi UT 84043