Winter is prime time for a few things. Hot chocolate and thick socks, for starters. More indoor workouts and meal prepping soups and stews? That too. It’s also a common time for a nasty sickness to sideline your training efforts. Sound familiar? Not to worry—we’ve got your back. We recently caught up with Spartan Race’s CEO and cofounder Joe De Sena to get his top tips for staving off illness and embracing your best body in the chilly winter months.
1. Stick to soup
If there’s one thing that De Sena swears by once a sniffle knocks on his door, it’s his family’s recipe for onion soup. When his grandfather immigrated over to the US by boat, sickness ran rampant and deaths were common. A French cook on the boat started making this simple soup, consisting of chopped onions, water, and spices. The story goes that De Sena’s grandfather would drink this soup, finished with raw garlic just before serving, then wrap himself in a blanket and sweat out any inkling of sickness. It’s a method that De Sena himself keeps up to this day. “It’s not like you’re going to be dating any new companion on this soup,” he jokes. “But without a doubt, I feel better soon after having it.”
2. Listen to your body
When you’re training constantly, whether it be for a race or for life, your body is constantly put to the test. While De Sena admits he’s certainly “a maniac,” he has found the value of listening to his body when things aren’t feeling 100 percent. “Your body gets broken down because you’re relentlessly working without taking a break,” he says. “I’ll be the first one to tell you that you can sleep when you’re dead. But when I’m feeling a little tired, I quickly address the issue. If it’s my back, I stretch it. It’s not that I don’t get sick or have pains and aches, but I quickly work on something when it pops up.”
Today, it’s commonplace to eat between three and five meals daily, including snacks. But when you’re not feeling great, De Sena recommends a fast, giving your digestive system an essential break from the constant work. “Fasting is an unbelievable cure for almost anything in the body,” he says, referencing the idea that humans can go for four minutes without air, four days without water, and 40 days without food. “You’re not gonna die. You’re going to be fine.”
And this isn’t just when you’re feeling under the weather, either. A big believer in the idea you’ve got to “move the blood,” De Sena stresses the importance of doing something light, even if it’s a few bodyweight squats, to get your heart pumping blood through your veins. “It’s OK if you’re not giving 100 percent, but maybe 80 percent instead,” he says. “Fake it till you make it.” Although if you’re exhausted and can’t keep your eyes open: red flag. Take a step back, and again—listen to your body.
5. Get outside
Wearing the right clothes and layers, for sure, but DeSena swears by incorporating outdoor workouts as part of his training, no matter the time of year. When you’re feeling a little less than excited about braving the elements, he suggests simply shifting your vision. “You’ve just got to change the sentence to ‘I get to do this,’ instead of ‘I have to do this.’ A lot of people don’t get to do this, because of a condition they have. At the end of your life, when you’re sitting in a rocking chair at 85 years old—I bet you that you’ll talk about the times you pushed yourself—the memorable, awesome experiences. Not the ones when you were on the couch.”
Prevention is the best medicine. Download The Free Spartan Smoothie Guide as your blueprint. #noexcuses