Exercise in the Winter

by Scarlett Underwood

Getting your daily workout in the winter can become a struggle for many and you aren’t alone.  Luckily, there are things you can do to help make it a little easier.  Whether you work out indoors and you can’t shake the fact that the sun doesn’t rise until later in the morning, or you love to workout outside and you can’t bear the cold.

For those that enjoy the early morning workouts, and find it difficult to wake up while there isn’t a bit of light outside, here are a few tips:

  • Go to bed earlier: slowly move your bedtime back 15 minutes earlier each night until you are able to wake up with ease in the morning
  • Set an alarm on your phone so you know when to be in bed
  • Turn TV, computer, or cell phones off an hour before bed to help the brain wind down

If you enjoy outdoor workouts and can’t find the perfect way to handle the cold weather, there are a few ways to combat that as well:

  • Warm up inside with jumping jacks, running in place etc. for 10-15 minutes before going outside
  • Dress in layers that are easy to pull off as your body temperature rises

Additional ways to create consistency throughout the winter weather is to have a workout buddy.  Having someone who will create accountability with you sets you both up for success.  Plan what time you will get your daily cardio, or pump in, and stick to it.  Put your workout clothes on, and head straight to the gym.  Once you are there, you have come too far to turn around and skip your sweat session.

Scarlett Underwood Contactscarlettunderwood

Scarlett joined UTC Campus Recreation as the Coordinator of Fitness in July.  She loves working out and teaching group fitness classes in her spare time, especially Les Mills BODYPUMP.  In her free time, she is an animal lover and enjoys getting out to explore Chattanooga and all of its surroundings

A Wish for My Children

By Sarah Colby

I have two sons.

One is six feet and 125 pounds and can’t gain weight. He is mostly sedentary and eats atrociously. A few years ago, when he got a respiratory illness, he got worse fast. He did not have the 10 pounds to lose that he lost. It was scary and to this day, I wish I could personally thank the inventors of the medicines that saved his life.

My second son is about six feet, three inches and well over 300 pounds. He goes to the gym, is physically active (much more than my first child but still less than I would like) and eats a pretty healthy diet. He was 18 pounds at 2 ½ months of age, wore size 16 shoes by the time he was 12 and has always been as far above the growth charts as the charts are wide.

The ultimate irony- I am a childhood obesity prevention researcher.

Obesity is a worldwide public health crisis. Medical cost associated with weight-related illnesses may cripple our economy. Many overweight or obese children of today may become young adults with diabetes. If things continue unchanged for those young adults with diabetes, what will it do for the workforce and economy if they begin to lose their eyesight, kidneys, or feet when they are barely even middle-aged? Will our children grow up to be healthy enough to take care of their own families, contribute to society, or to protect our country? Sound dramatic? It is a realistic concern. And that does not even begin to address the human suffering that occurs at every point of this spectrum.

This threat has been widely recognized and many are dedicated to changing the outcome of this story. The great news is that among young children we are beginning to see positive changes in the overweight/obesity trends. The efforts to reach families, schools, and communities, through education, programs, policies, systems, and environmental change appear to be having an impact. That investment of research funds and time may be making a real difference.

So what patterns of healthy eating might be making a difference? In general, most of us need to consume a variety of foods, in moderation, more natural and unprocessed, enough fiber (we almost all need more beans), lean proteins, more water, and eat all the colors. No, sorry, colorful candies don’t count. If you absolutely want to cut something out of you and your child’s diet- added refined sugar. That is the one thing that I can say is fine for almost everyone to cut completely out of their diets.


So if I know all of this, why do I still have one child seriously underweight and one child obese? Because it is not that simple. We don’t have all the answers, but we don’t give up. I talk to them about food not because they should look any specific way, but because I want them to be happy, healthy, and living the life they want to live. It is hard to be happy when we hurt and if we get sick from the way we eat and live, then we hurt. I teach my boys to enjoy healthy food and be active. Our job as parents is to provide healthy foods at every meal or snack, have regular meal times, let our kids see us enjoying eating healthy foods and being active, cook meals with our kids, eat together as a family, not use food as a reward or a punishment, and then, here is the key, not focus on what they are eating or their weight. That is the most and best we can do until we have more answers. I also believe that teaching my boys to love and appreciate their bodies and that they are beautiful the way they are, is most important. Weight matters not because we all need to look a certain way or fit a certain body type, it only matters because it impacts our health and our lives. Celebrate you, love you, accept you and live the life you want to live. That is what I wish for my children.


Sarah Colby Contact
UT Knoxville

Dr. Colby is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of Tennessee. She is an obesity prevention behavioral researcher with a focus on health communication through novel nutrition education strategies (including marketing, arts and technology). In addition to her focus on novel communication strategies, she has research experience with young children, adolescents, and young adult populations; community-based participatory action research; Latino and Native American populations; food security issues; and environmental and economic influences on food behavior.

Finding time to exercise – can you spare 10 minutes?

By Brian Hester 

As I have gotten older, finding time or motivation to exercise has been an increasingly difficult task.  During my college and younger adult years, there seemed to be plenty of time to fit in a 1-2 hour workout nearly every day.   Nowadays, having a full-time job, completing a PhD and helping my wife raise our 4 year old all take priority over daily fitness.

However, I’ve learned that skipping exercise – even just few days – can have negative consequences that will set me back.  This is especially true in the winter months, when I have even more excuses to skip daily exercising due to shorter daylight, cold, rain, sleet or snow.  If I miss several days of weight-bearing activity during these colder months, I am much more apt to pull a muscle, especially in my back.  When this happens, I am out of commission for at least a couple of days, if not longer. Finding a way to prevent this is a necessity to keep from missing work, falling behind in dissertation writing or missing out on the joys of helping my son with his daily adventures as he learns and grows.

So, what I have discovered – through wiser friends or the internet – is that when it comes to exercising in the winter, or any time throughout the year, less is more.  If I know that if I’m only going to spend 10 minutes a day “working out,” I’m much more likely to allocate this time to fitness and stick to it.   Therefore, my daily cardio and weight workouts have evolved to climbing the stairs at work or using just my own body instead of a gym for core weight-bearing workouts like pushups and crunches, and finding quick five to 15-minute exercise breaks that are most convenient and least likely to be interrupted from work, school or family commitments.  I have broken these times up into roughly four five-minute breaks during the work day hours and 10-15 minutes at home right after work.

At work, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon (say at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.) I find five minutes to climb the stairs.  I do 10 flights in three minutes – I’m out of breath at the top but not broken into a sweat.  This covers my cardio for the day.  I know you are supposed to get 20-30 minutes and break a sweat, but hey, this is better than nothing.  For weight bearing activity, every day when I get home after work, I spend a grand total of 10 minutes that starts with simple stretches (check out YouTube for tons of good examples), then I do 100 pushups and 50 crunches.  This may sound like a lot to some people (or laughably little to others), but, believe me, you can work up to this amount in  a few weeks.   Supplementing this, three-days-a-week I mix in bicep curls with dumbbells (whatever weight that allows you to just barely finish a set of 10 reps), shoulder shrugs, and wrist curls.  I can get three sets of these exercises done in five minutes. During one week, this equals 15 minutes of exercise time at home on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, and just 10 minutes on the other four days.

I will assuredly not win any body-building or feats-of-strength competitions with this routine, but I have found that my long-term health and mood greatly benefit from this small amount of daily physical activity.  Yes, there are still those times when my back will go on a 24-hour strike, like after moving heavy objects or throwing Nicholas up in the air for the 20th time he’s requested it, but during the past five years that I’ve followed this routine, I have not had any back pain issues that have lingered more than a day.  Even more amazing, my annual physical exams have consistently resulted in my doctor being fooled into saying, “You must work out a lot!”


Brian Hester and his son Nicholas
Brian Hester with his son Nicholas

Brian Hester Contact
UT System Administration

Brian is the Assistant Director of Institutional Research for the UT System.  He is husband to Alice – a physician’s assistant at East TN Children’s Hospital, and father to Nicholas – who just turned 4 in January 2016.   Brian loves to read – anything on parenting and child development and fiction novels, when he can find the time.  As a family, they enjoy outdoor activities including hiking and fishing, and lots of sports – Brian currently is coaching a 4-5 year old basketball team, on which son Nicholas plays.


Coached by the Best

By Erica Jenkins

If you’re looking for a way to fit exercise into your day without going to the gym, try these coach-approved exercises.

Step-Up + Backward Lunge

By Leslie Gillies, Assistant Head Coach of the UT Martin Women’s Soccer Team

  1. Step with right foot onto box, pressing the right heel down while pushing off with the left leg and bringing it next to your right foot.
    Leslie standing upright with right foot planted on step
  2. Pause then step your left leg down in a slow, controlled manner 6-12 inches from the box. Let your right foot follow once the left has safely made contact with the ground.
    Leslie stands upright on step
  3. Step the foot back, landing on the ball of the foot. As this occurs, bend both knees and drop your hips straight down.
    Leslie standing upright with right foot planted on step
  4. When your front thigh is parallel with the floor, extend your knees and hips to stand back up to the start position. The leg you step up with is the same leg you step back with on the backward lunge.
    Leslie lunges in squat position with left foot forward and her right knee bend downward


Novice: Novice individuals should use a box that is significantly lower (i.e. ankle or shin height)

Active: Individuals who are very active in strength training may select a box that is no higher than knee height and add dumbbells held at one’s side.

No box: If no box is available, using the bottom step of a stair would also work.

High Plank w/ Variations

By Chris Gillies, UT Martin Strength and Conditioning Coach

Performing the high plank and its different variations can offer excellent options for those who are looking to improve their fitness level. A high plank is simply the “up” position of a push-up and can be performed on time (i.e. 30 seconds) or by number of repetitions (i.e. 10 touches per side).

Proper Positioning

Chris Gillies with both hands on floor balancing on toes

    • Hand Position – Hands are placed under one’s shoulders while being shoulder width apart. Fingers point forward and elbows are fully extended.
    • Foot Position – Feet should be no wider than hip width with weight pressed forward on the tip toes.
    • Flat Back – One’s head should be in front of their hands, forcing the chest to be located between the hands. Force the abdominals and lower back to tighten by squeezing the buttocks together while drawing in the belly button to the spine.


      1. Add an alternating toe tap
        Chris Gillies plants both hands on floor stretching right leg
      2. Alternate moving the knees to the chest
        Chris Gillies in crouching position with one knee forward
      3. Incorporate an alternating shoulder tap (touch the right shoulder with the left hand, return to the high plank, followed by touching the left shoulder with the right hand, repeat)
        Chris Gillies positioning one hand on his chest, one hand on floor

Common mistakes include the hips rising up due to the weight shifting back and the head no longer in front of the hands, and the hips sinking to the ground because of not drawing in the belly button and tightening the buttocks. As one begins to tire, these mistakes can become more evident.

Benefits of the Exercise: Many times individuals feel they must go the gym and use weights and machines to get a proper workout. This could not be further from the truth. One’s own body weight can provide great challenges.

What the Exercise Targets: Holding this position challenges the chest, shoulders, abdominals, and back.

Erica Jenkins HeadshotErica Jenkins  Contact
UT System Administration

Erica joined the UT System Office of Communications and Marketing in 2011 and currently serves as public relations associate, specializing in measurement and analytics and managing communication planning for government relations and advocacy initiatives. When she’s not involved in community and campus organizations, Erica enjoys deep sea fishing with her family and working on music. 

Why I Play Paddleball

By Scott Gordy

Why I Play Paddleball:
Because I have a blast doing it! We’ve got a group of 10 to 12 people who play at lunch two or three times a week. If the weather’s nice, we play outside, and if not, we use the campus rec center.

My Motivation:
Physical activity helps me clear my mind, refocus and boost my metabolism. Going out there puts a fresh perspective on things and sometimes even helps me solve problems—a change of scenery can be good for that.

My Wellness Goal:
I try to keep my weight in check and focus on cardiovascular health.

Scott Gordy  Contact
UT Institute for Public Service
IT Manager