Cold hands, warm heart….


Cold hands warm heart my Nana used to say.  (That’s me in my Nana’s arm with my Dad and Grandpa.)

Sounds nice doesn’t it? But the reality is that I feel the cold. I always have and I can’t remember a time that I didn’t. I thought it was normal so I have never, and will never, complain about it. It is what it is. I hear all winter long – I am cold – from members. Often this comes from members in t-shirts and ¾ pants. I then put my ice block hands on them and their bodies are fairly warm. I feel more like a cold reptile! Not mentioning it has actually been a big part of coping with it. Our words are powerful. If I say I am cold, think I am cold, even think about how it feels, it is a cold I cannot cope with. There needs to be a balance though and over the years I have learnt to ask for help and found it in many different ways. Now I would like to pass what I have discovered on to you and hopefully it will help.

As a child I used to go to my Nana’s house and was spoilt by her unconditional, never ending, unlimited love. To keep my little hands and feet warm she would put me in front of the heater that was turned up high. I would often sit at her feet as she crocheted. We would talk about all sorts of things and it was a wonderful time for me. However, I would leave her place and end up with the most awful chilblains on my toes. As the years went by those chilblains would be on the tips of my ears and then eventually on my hands. By the time they were on my hands I was living in the UK and totally unprepared for the cold.

Growing up in a cold town I was used to wearing a jumper all year round and of course playing and then exercising outdoors. Thankfully it is a habit I still have as I am sure it helps a lot. Arriving in England without the right clothing was pretty awful! I discovered big bulky coats, hats and gloves. Go indoors and they came off. That transition from hot to cold is one that I try and avoid. This means if I warm up at all the clothes are off and then back on if I feel even remotely chilly. No electric blankets or hot water bottles. The temperature in my unit stays consistently between 16 and 20 all winter long. The heating in my car is rarely on. As soon as I leave it I feel the cold. Once I am cold warming up can take hours.

I arrived in Melbourne after a couple of years in Sydney. That was lovely living there as I had no issues with the cold at all. You would think that after living in Portland and then England that Melbourne would be fine. It was horrible!! I ended up going to a Naturopath who was fantastic. The doctors in England had told me that I had Raynaud’s and this is the reason I wear gloves from April to September. They had also tried to put me on Warfarin (yuck) and scared me with stories. My hands when cold go a deathly white with no blood flowing through them. Apparently if it lasts I will lose the use of my fingers and amputation will be the only answer. Scary stuff for a girl in her 20’s.

The Naturopath gave me lots of tools that really helped.
First was to cut back on wheat. I was eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hard to start off with but much easier now.
Second was to reduce dairy. Apart from yoghurt I have no dairy.
Gingko Biloba has probably been the most significant. It improves circulation and is great for memory. I always increase my dose throughout winter.
Fish oil made a massive difference. It reduces inflammation. My knuckles were so inflamed and painful that at times I was unable to hold a pen, let alone write. To this day I still take fish oil daily.
Reducing tea and coffee has an impact. Whilst not a fan of herbal teas anything with Ginger is good. I have discovered wet chai and through winter the cinnamon smell wafts through my home as I brew it up at least 3 times a day.
Meals always have a sprinkle of the circulation boosting spices – cumin, turmeric, paprika and chilli.

By 2004 I was feeling heaps better with my coping mechanisms and then looked at buying Step into Life. In those early days the question of how I would cope with the cold was major. At the time I was running about 5 times a week. I have always found running outside great for circulation. It was around this time that I discovered layers. I had always worn singlets and tights under jeans now I got serious. Skins and compression pants as the bottom layer are excellent. Long sleeve cotton tops as a layer over the singlet is important. Gloves of course are necessary. Thin layers and lots of them became my standard wardrobe. It sure does increase the washing but is so important. Socks are an all year round for me – especially in bed. Covering my lower back is vital to being warm. Layers have to be long with no exposure of the lower back. The Chinese say that we need to keep our vitals warm and I agree. Even my PJs have long tops!

A couple of years ago we changed to periodised training and it was just perfect for me. No longer standing on an oval through winter. I got to go out and run and romp with members. In the last 2 years that has had the biggest impact on my circulation. I do a lot of moving through winter but I also get to eat lots of warming foods – soups and bread. Delicious, nutritious and warming.

I read an article last winter which talked about the best way to stay warm through winter is to hibernate. Seriously no way will I do that! Hibernating is a ridiculous notion. Bears can do it because they can eat enough food through summer and don’t need to eat through winter. To compare us to bears and tell us to mimic their behaviour – I was as wild as a bear!! Putting my layers on and heading out for a walk along the deserted beach, training with members and seeing them leave with smiley faces, rugging up and going out and meeting friends at the park with Elly and Daisy are some of my favourite things.

As a child I suffered with colds ALL the time. My mum used to send me to school still. That’s what you did – soldier on. As a teenager I totally hated her for it. Whilst I certainly don’t believe that is how to treat it, the attitude strengthened my body and my mind. Now if I feel a sniffle coming on I head to bed for an hour nap. The difference that makes is incredible. Through winter I take 1000mg of Vitamin C every day. If there are lots of sniffles at sessions I do the same at night. Vitamin C is an amazing Vitamin and a vital part of my wellbeing. To date I had my last cold 2 and a half years ago. My immune system is strong, my body is strong and I have strategies to cope.

I embrace winter and the beautiful season it is. Crisp clear air that I can breathe in is glorious when my body is toasty warm in my layers. If not a few star jumps does the trick! Feeling the warm winter sun on my face is truly delightful. Like everything it is just a season and before we know it spring is here and then summer and autumn and back to winter. It’s the cycle of our lives and I love it and all that it brings. Listening to your body is very important. If it feels tired, rest it. If it feels blocked take some Vitamin C. If I feel sluggish I head outdoors and move. Most importantly though we can be summed up by Margaret Thatcher “Watch your thoughts as they become your words.

Watch your words as they become your actions.

Watch your actions as they become your habits.

Watch your habits as they become you character.

Watch your character as it becomes your destiny.”

I am a girl with cold hands (that I manage). I am also a girl with a very warm heart x

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