When it’s minus five and pitch-black outside, the last thing that most of us want to do is bounce out of bed, bundle up and begin bounding down the frosty pavements on an early morning jog. But don’t worry, there are plenty of tips and tricks for getting in those steps and raising your heart rate, even when time gets tight and temperatures drop approaching the festive season.
Get into a realistic routine
It’s no good telling yourself that tomorrow morning you’re going to transform into the type of person who enjoys that 6am spin class, or vice versa finds a burst of energy after work to smash out that weights session at the gym, if you know it’s simply not realistic for you. Instead, work with your existing habits and find creative ways to fit in your daily exercise.
You could go to that lunchtime yoga session you’ve always fancied, get off the tube/train/tram one stop early and walk the rest of the way, or even take your lunch to go and take a long walk during your break. Or, if the only time you really can carve out is early in the morning or late in the evening, keep your motivation high by giving yourself a reward (like buying your favourite gingerbread latte on the way to the office), and reminding yourself what your end goal is.
Find something you love
It’s easier to get yourself out of the house and battle through the wind and rain if you’re excited about what you’re going to do. If you’re not into running, try cycling or HIIT workouts. Want something less strenuous? Give your local swimming pool or Pilates studio a visit. If you feel like you need to mix things up a bit then even give dance classes a go, or find out what an aerial silks class actually is (please report back tysm). You’ll only find out what exercise you love by trying everything at least once, so get outside your comfort zone!
Wear the right gear
When temperatures plummet, it’s important to keep warm and dry when you exercise outside. It can be tempting to head out on a frosty bike ride bundled up like the Michelin man, but instead, try to choose your winter training gear tactically to optimise your performance. Layering up rather than wearing one heavy hoodie or jacket will ensure you can regulate your temperature during every stage of exercise. It’s much more appealing to venture outside if you know you won’t get too cold or overheat half way through your session.
Refuel and recharge
If you’re making an effort to be active this winter, then it’s really important to fuel your body properly. Eating plenty of slow release carbs, protein (there are some great plant-based sources!) and healthy fats will keep your body running smoothly while you’re running around this December!
Time saving recipes hacks will also help you get those five extra minutes in bed before work in the morning, and we all know that a decent night’s sleep is vital. Getting enough Zs helps your body repair after exercise, and ensures you have enough energy to tackle your trip to the gym as well as your trip to the shops to buy those last minute presents (both equally as exhausting!).
Don’t be too hard on yourself
At the end of the day, this time of year is all about enjoying yourself, so don’t feel guilty for having that extra mince pie, skipping your 5k for a shopping spree, or spending the day curled up on the sofa after the office Christmas party. Balance is important in sustaining a healthy lifestyle, so I hope that these tips help you keep active whilst still enjoying all of the winter wonders this year.
About the author: Natalie Metcalf is in charge of Marketing & Social Media at LoveRaw. Natalie has a passion for creating kick-ass content and can be found practising her yoga poses as she updates the LoveRaw Instagram feed.
It's important to warm up at the best of times, but particularly in winter we need to get our cold muscles ready to work so that we don't get injured. Triathlete and Sundried ambassador Simon Turner shares his tips for warming up thoroughly as well as some warm up exercises you can add into your outdoor training routine.
Winter Outdoor Training Warm Up
During the winter, especially on cold mornings, extra attention is required towards the muscle groups you will be working throughout your session. It can feel like extra effort to do an extended warm up, but discipline is required to prevent injury. A few extra minutes warming up could potentially save you weeks out with a pulled muscle or worse.
Firstly, I check mobility of all limbs and joints by doing a quick rotation forward and backwards. This is to ensure I don’t have any minor niggles prior to training.
A slow progressive warm up follows which can include running on the spot as well as dynamic exercises in which you go further into the exercise, for example squatting to half depth, then three quarters depth, then full depth. This is all designed to fire up the muscles and raise your heart rate ready to train or run.
Once that’s done, I go into a steady jog; nothing fast as this is to continue to raise my heart rate and to control my breathing. I continue this for 5-7 minutes and then I do 5 sets of striders (running strides). These are short sprints done before a workout or run to wake up the body and get it ready for the intensity of the session to come.
All in all, this warm up takes around 20 minutes and by the end I feel pumped and ready to begin my session, whether that's strength, running, or cycling.
So, you have reached the end of your race season, what do you do now? Are you feeling a little bit lost or have you already started looking ahead to next year's races? Here is a triathlon coach's expert advice on maintaining fitness during the off-season.
The first thing everyone should be doing is having a break. That’s right, a complete stop from training. Cue hushed silence! So many athletes use training as their coping mechanism from stress and work – I know I have and still do use sport like that on occasion. To take that out of your life can leave a massive void, a worry about what you will do with your time, a worry about losing all your hard earned fitness and speed.
The problem with this is twofold. Firstly, without a proper solid break from training or physical stimulation, your body can’t have a full recovery and reset. Most endurance athletes train most days (if their work/family/life schedule allows), if not twice a day, so taking a few days of doesn’t cut it. Time for your body to recharge and repair is essential. On top of this, your brain needs a rest. If you have a particular goal that you want to work towards each year – whether it be a particular race (of any distance), or a PB – then hopefully you have ramped up your efforts towards that goal and hopefully you achieved it. But to have that ramp up in intensity and effort, you have to have some down time too. If you don’t feel like you need that downtime, then chances are you’ll find out at a later point that you did need it and you’ll have a period of low motivation.
Take at least 2 weeks, if not 3, of doing no training whatsoever. Just stop. Take time to spend with friends, family, socialising. Two or three weeks will not lose you all your fitness. But it will have you ready and raring to do something. After that period of proper time off, have a couple of weeks to a month of what you may call 'play'. Do “stuff”, but it’s not training. Don’t worry about your watch or your speed. But if you feel like going and running – go run. Leave the watch at home and focus on enjoying the experience. Try something different – maybe climb, mountain bike or row. All of this is about having fun, about being active and maybe building a little bit of fitness without any worry, any focus, keeping it all light. The great thing with play is that you might develop extra skills that can help your primary sports.
Then it’s time to work out what you are doing for the year ahead and what you need to be doing now to aid and assist that. Unless you’re planning on doing an Ironman or marathon in February/March, you don’t need long training sessions (which is good when the weather is horrible and dark!)
You can use the winter to start changing habits and help toward your end goal. Do you keep putting off improving your swimming? Now’s the time with no stress or races immediately round the corner. Do you keep getting run niggles? Get your running checked out. Use the time you have effectively, get things looked at now and you can start your training year with the best possible habits before you start doing more and working harder.
Along with technique and skill retraining, the other thing that can be of real benefit is starting to build strength work into your programme. I am a massive believer in doing something for strength all year round – it doesn’t have to be in a gym, although if you can get to a facility it will add benefits because of the extra resistance you can hopefully incorporate.
The gym is a scary place for many endurance athletes who would rather be outside, worry about being weak, and have fears of getting “bulky”. Let's deal with each of these in turn.
1) The less fun element, or being away from what you are good at – if you have a good PT, or even look online, you should be able to work out or find a programme that is fun, motivating and enjoyable. That doesn’t mean it is easy, but in the same way your swim or run training can vary, so can work in the gym. It’s not a one size fits all, and should certainly be adaptable to you.
2) Worries about being weak – compared to whom? Being the gym is the same as going out running, or being in the water. We notice other people while we’re out training – but we don’t pay huge attention. When you’re in the gym it’s the same – someone may notice that you’re there, but they aren’t going to be staring at your form or how much weight you are pushing. Besides, the reason you (and anyone else) is doing your training is to get better. Take a deep breathe and focus on yourself.
3) Being bulky/putting on weight – a massive fallacy. To put on bulk and muscle you need to eat a hell of a lot, and you need to work super hard in the gym for a concerted period of time. If your food is balanced (ie calories in v calories out) then you will not be physically able to put on weight or size. It’s a physical and biological impossibility, against the laws of nature.
Just because you might start getting in the gym, that doesn’t mean you need to spend hours there. One or two sessions of 45 minutes to an hour a week are plenty. And this can fit in nicely with reduced other training while you build into a rhythm. If you’re someone who does two sessions of each per week, a gym session or two hopefully can slot in nicely.
If time is an issue, you could substitute one of your other sessions, or maybe your long ride through the winter (rather than going out and riding in the wet for 3 hours, you could do a 45-minute gym session and get more bang for your buck). Or you could do body weight exercises at home to reduce the time pressures on yourself.
Your training through the winter should reflect that there’s nothing immediate coming up for you. Enjoy your training, and try not to stress about it too much. If you wake up in the morning feeling unmotivated – take the morning off. It doesn’t have to become a habit, but if you remove the mental stress now, you’ll feel much better about getting your head down when the sun comes out.
Keep the sessions short and punchy so that you can get in and get done – and then maybe go to the Christmas party or that catch up with friends you haven’t seen in six months.
Volume is easy to add back into training; the body generally absorbs that better, so go for the quick hits, a turbo or spin class to get the legs moving, a short trail run in the dark (a group I used to run with called it Blair Witch Running!), or a club swim session for company – and then be done with it. Use races as fun training sessions – whether that be your local off-road 5-miler or entering masters swimming.
Training in the winter can be a challenge, mentally as much if not more so than physically. Give your body and brain a change, some fun, and tick over. Remove the stress and have fun. You’ll be thankful in the new year.
About the author: John Wood has been involved in swimming for the last 25 years and has competed at National and International levels. He is now a triathlon coach with Bristol and District Triathlon club, Flying Monks Triathlon, and North Bristol Tri, training adults, children and para athletes.
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.
While most people are putting away their bikinis and short shorts and getting the woolly knit out, for anyone who trains this means putting the vests away and getting the base layers out; winter training begins!
Transitioning from summer training when the days are longer and brighter, you can wear a vest and shorts, and generally feel more energetic to colder, darker nights when you would prefer to just go home to a hot meal and a blanket can be tough, so here are a few tips to help keep your training on track.
The saying "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail" is one of my favourites, because how true is that? Planning your week's training helps you stay on track. I ask my PT clients each week what their training schedule is for the week, then make a conscious effort to ask them each day how it went. It's all too easy to say that you'll go to the gym tomorrow and then skip the session. Make a weekly planner like mine below, set your alarms, and pack your bag the night before. Having something written down makes it real.
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday S&C Legs S&C Back and Biceps Teach Spin Watt Bike Teach HIIT Long Run Rest Day Boxing Watt Bike Core Core Teach Spin Core Run Club Teach Spin S&C Upper Body
By planning your workouts, you are being accountable to yourself, because no one likes to see skipped workouts crossed off the calendar. Also, if you train with someone else you don’t want to let them down. Tell people what you are doing, and you’ll find they will encourage you more than letting you slip into the chunky knit!
Take the training inside
Used to running or cycling outside? There is no reason why you can’t keep your stamina and energy levels up during winter. The only time I don’t run outside is if it is raining, as due to injury I cannot chance slipping on a leaf. So the treadmill helps! At the gym where I work we also have a 'skill mill'. This is a self-propelled treadmill which is shaped like a banana. It is much more natural to run on as it replicates running outside. I mix it up by running intervals. By turning the resistance up to its highest, it replicates a prowler. My current plan is below:
- 5 mins warm up jog, halfway resistance
- 2 min sprint, low resistance
- 2 min prowler, heavy resistance
- Repeat x 10
- 5 min cool down walk
When it comes to cycling, this one is easy. I teach 3 spin classes a week, but also am a big fan of the Watt Bike. This feels more natural than an upright bike and you definitely get a big workout on it! There are workouts on the Watt Bike app, or I tend to log into my Zwift app and follow one of their plans.
Who doesn’t love shopping for sportswear? It’s the perfect excuse to get some winter kit to make you warmer and more visible outside. These are my winter activewear essentials:
Buff (for neck or ears)
Buff (I wear 2, one round my neck and one under my helmet)
Get a Personal Trainer
Think of the money you are saving by not sitting in the pub beer garden with a cider! You could be putting your beer money towards keeping you motivated during winter.
Most personal trainers sell sessions by the block which works out cheaper than individual sessions. I tend to run a 6-week kick start course just before Christmas which gets everyone into the mind frame of training and eating better before the festive period.
Speak to a trainer about what your goals are. They will keep you accountable and it is their job to keep you motivated! If you were to have 1 session a week it could cost you around the same as your week's worth of coffees that you grab on the way to work.
‘Summer bodies are made in the winter’
We've all heard it, but it is true! You might want to swap your water for a hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream, but think about your reason 'why’. As a personal trainer and nutritionist, I’m a believer in moderation. I don’t advise cutting anything out of your diet, unless it is detrimental to your health.
I tend to eat well during the week, but I always order a pizza on a Saturday night. My Christmas tipple? Baileys Irish Cream! I don’t deprive myself, but I factor it in when I am training and ensure I do an extra few squat jumps or an extra kilometre run. In the past, I have found that if I completely deprive myself, I get ‘hangry’ and start to resent everyone who is tucking into their selection boxes while I am trying to convince myself that this yogurt is equally as satisfying.
So if you want the chocolate bar, have it, if you want the glass of wine, have it. Just don’t talk yourself out of going to the gym to burn it off!
About the author: Emma Vincent is a personal trainer, fitness instructor, and Sundried ambassador.