With darker mornings and evenings, dropping temperatures and bad weather, it’s no surprise that our motivation tends to drop over winter. But don’t let the season steal your fitness oomph. Here are my top tips to get fitter and feel better this winter (especially for those morning workouts).
Warm up the room
Temperature has a direct impact on our body rhythms, making it harder to get out of bed on those cold mornings. A simple thing you can do to help is set your heating to come on just before you normally wake up. Even better, put your workout clothes on the radiator so they are toasty warm and ready for you when you climb out of bed.
Light has a massive impact on our bodies and well being. As soon as you wake up, try to put a light on if you can as this instantly primes your body to get moving. You can also get some effective alarm clock lamps which wake you with a light that simulates daylight. They’re particularly good if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Change your alarm sound from the normal (slightly annoying) random sounds to a good song that you actually like. Something that will lift your mood right from the moment you wake.
Rather than heading to the kitchen for a coffee in your dressing gown, head straight for the shower. Have a warm shower to wake you up and then climb in to your workout gear (which will be warm from the radiator). Getting dressed right away will also help get you past the urge to skip the workout and just nurse your coffee.
Dress for success
If you are planning on running or doing a workout outside, the right clothing is vital. Winter workout gear may be a little pricier but it’s definitely worth it - proper winter hats, gloves, leggings, tops or jackets will make it so much more comfortable and enjoyable for you. Plus, the joy of new kit and the fact you’ve invested in it will help you stick to it.
Even if you’re working out indoors, it’s still important to dress properly for the journey there and back. Getting freezing cold on the way to or way home from your class isn’t going to leave you feeling like you want to do it again! So wrap up and wear a coat, all gyms have lockers so it’s no big deal.
Know what time of the day works best for you
Carve out a consistent time every day or every other day to exercise and make sure it works with your schedule. If you know you struggle to get up early during winter, don’t plan your workouts or classes for the morning. Maximize your chances of doing the workout by scheduling it at a time you’re more likely to do it such as at lunchtime or after work.
Get an accountability-buddy
It’s so much harder to bail on a workout if someone else is relying on you to be there. Find a friend to workout with. If you don’t want to or can’t actually workout together, you can still help each other – agree when you’re going to work out, message each other, become ‘friends’ on your fitness app, or even start a healthy competition.
Actually commit to your workout. If it’s a group exercise class, book yourself in so you’re committed to going, get yourself some personal training sessions if you want some one-on-one accountability, sign up for a challenge so you feel compelled to train, or as above - find yourself an accountability buddy. You can also publicly commit on social media, in an online group or WhatsApp group to your workouts - it’s harder to skip them when you’ve committed publicly!
Keep It Simple
Don’t make it overly complicated. If it’s difficult to get to your class, or you have to jump through hoops to sort out childcare for your run for example, chances are you won’t make it and you’ll find an excuse. Keep things simple – choose classes that you know you can get to, arrange a workout for a time when you’re passing the gym, use the machines that are free at the gym rather than stressing about waiting for particular ones - just have a stress-free workout. Remember, any activity is better than none so do whatever you can do!
Warm up inside
If you’re off for a run or outdoor workout then warm up inside first - jog on the spot, knee lifts, jacks, push ups etc. This is a good way to loosen up your muscles and get into the workout mindset while raising your body temperature. Even if you’re heading to a class doing this first can get your heart rate going, blood circulating and get you in the right frame of mind.
Set small targets and goals that help you to stay on track each day. Perhaps the number of miles this week, the number of workouts over the next seven days, or steady improvements in strength gains in the gym. Write them down and make sure they’re specific and measurable. Track your progress and plan some rewards for when you hit each one!
Try something new
Use the bad weather as a chance to try something new. If you’re an outdoor runner try mixing it up with some classes or gym workouts for example. Try a new type of workout - if you’re always leaping around doing high intensity workouts then try something calmer like yoga or balance etc. Or try a new indoor sport to try over the winter - badminton, squash, swimming etc.
Turn your errands into your workout
It sounds too simple to be true, but a recent study found that people with the highest levels of non-exercise activity (things like walking, gardening, etc.) burned significantly more calories each week than those who were working out in the gym (treadmill running specifically). Focus on being being physically active every day in any capacity you can, rather than just being active during a workout. Try to make every day errands and chores more active - walk to the shops instead of ordering online, take a slightly longer route home, walk to your friend’s for dinner rather than driving, use the stairs etc.
Remind yourself why you’re doing this
Get a post-it note and write down your reason for working out - it could be weight loss for a specific event, it could be training for a challenge next year, it could be a health related reason - whatever it is write it down and put it somewhere you’ll see it daily - maybe the bathroom mirror. This visible reminder can really help on those days when your motivation drops.
You don’t have to go out to exercise, you can easily do a home workout instead. You don’t need equipment, but if you feel you want some you can get a small set of adjustable dumbbells for under £30 to give you more options for your home workouts. Remember even ten mins is better than nothing – try a little circuit of squats, lunges, press ups, sit ups, jacks etc, and if you have weights or something suitably heavy to grab you can do bicep curls, tricep extensions, shoulder presses etc. You can always look up workouts on Instagram or youtube if you’re stuck for inspiration.
So there you go! Now you have no excuses to avoid those workouts and lots of reasons to stay motivated! Happy training!
About the author: Nancy Priston is a personal trainer, fitness instructor, and Sundried ambassador.