What is your preferred way to unwind during a busy week? A yoga class? A walk? Or your favourite TV show?
For Dublin yoga teacher Julie Burke (34), it’s swimrise, better known as a humbling icy plunge into the Irish Sea in the depths of winter.
The Clontarf woman explained: “If I go back about six months, the thought of swimming in the sea was just not appealing, and then a group of friends started running and they used to swim afterwards as well.”
“I used to do lifeguarding and when I was training it always seemed to be the coldest month and just not very nice. At the time it wasn’t something I enjoyed.”
“We pulled each other together and that’s how we started our little club and we started the swimrise afterwards.”
“The first couple of months I was dragged kicking and screaming. But then eventually one day I just let myself do it and gave myself a pat on the back. I stopped doing the ‘dip in, dip out’ and just let my body adjust to the cold, and I ended up absolutely loving it.”
A few weeks ago, Julie led a group of first timers into the sea for Bio-Kult’s Winter Health Swim Rise event.
“To be asked to do it for me was so great, it’s something I’ve used through a number of challenges I’ve faced. We all have days we’re a bit stressed. Going for a cold, cold dip gives me the reset and the confidence to face whatever’s in the day and whatever’s on my list.”
“Now if I don’t have time for a run, I just go and do a swim, first thing in the morning, it’s the best reset button. Gives you that rush of adrenaline, that really empowering feeling.
She added: “I was used to swimming with seals from lifeguarding. I'm not a massive bird fan but the swim certainly captures a part of the day that so many of us miss. Dublin was always home but this gave me a new perspective on Dublin - that the sea is right on our doorstep.”
Next year, on May 12, Julie will get married, and she’s already planning a swimrise that morning. And similarly on Christmas Day, Julie was down at the Bull Wall in Dublin plunging into the sea.
“The icy mornings are incredible,” she said. “My hands and feet get really cold and you need to be sure to warm up really quickly.”
“But you come into the dull, grey, dark winter and people go under it, and your fitness and drive can literally get darkened. Now I love getting up and getting active. A lot of people don’t realise the benefit of being fit and active and healthy. It gives you that mental space, that reset, that motivation, continuously.”
It's easy to let our exercise and fitness routines slip in these cold and dark winter months. You might need to adjust your daily routine with the shift in seasons but don't let it bring things to a halt. Simple changes like home workouts can be implemented into your exercise routine as a more accessible option. Yoga and Pilates are great for muscle strength and circulatory health, and these workouts range from beginner to expert.
With Christmas there are even more excuses to eat out. Making the right food choices is important for immunity and overall health. Eat foods that will nourish your body, give you energy, and keep you fuller for longer.
It’s important to make an effort to get a minimum of eight hours sleep a night, especially over the winter months when our bodies are subject to colder weather and the possibility of sickness.
Staying hydrated helps to detoxify our bodies, making us less susceptible to colds and flus. Drinking water not only nourishes our bodies, but also helps combat the beginning of winter bugs.
A probiotic and a glass of water can work wonders when it comes to prevention of sicknesses. A daily dose of Bio-Kult Advanced multi-strain is a good way to keep on top of your health during winter while staying hydrated too.
“Staying strong” applies to mental health as much as it does physical health. I, for one, am the worst patient, so I pay particular attention to keeping my body and mind fit and healthy. In winter, many of us suffer with mental health issues. Knowing this, it’s important to be present and just check in on how you are, with no distractions. It can be a 10-minute yoga flow in the morning, it can be a walk in the park, and it can be a meditation practice. It doesn't matter what it is, it matters that you make it happen.
We live in a world where we are constantly on our phones and bombarded by information and sensory stimulation. It’s vital that no matter what season it is, we all take time to unplug and disconnect. Try to have at least an hour before bed with no phone or make your sitting room a phone-free zone.