Wintering Your Fitness
The winter months are a challenging time of year for many people who are trying to stay healthy or exercise. Setting goals and using any trick available to help you stay on track can ensure you remain healthy and avoid the winter blues. Here are just some tips to help you stick with your winter workout.
Commit to your workout. The winter months have plenty of challenges like cold weather and shorter days, and because of this many people put fitness routines and winter workouts aside. Besides the cold weather, holiday schedules keep us busy, while some people are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which can lead to anxiety, depression, and sleep problems. Sticking with your workout routine can help you remain in a healthy state of mind to avoid these obstacles. Keep in mind that when you exercise, you are helping to balance brain chemicals and hormones that keep you feeling motivated and happy. And even better, research shows that exercising in cold weather helps you burn more calories, and can even boost your immune system, so you’ll have less chance of getting sick. (1)
Warm-up for indoor and outdoor exercise. Maintaining motivation for winter workouts will take a little extra discipline. So, begin with an easy warm up like stretching, jogging in place, or calisthenics at home. Just 5 – 10 minutes of warming up gets your heart pumping and your blood moving, which carries more oxygen to supply more energy to unwilling muscles. Many times, the warm up is motivation enough to complete the rest of your workout. And if you are the outdoorsy athlete, warming up is even more important as your muscles will be less likely to uncomfortably contract in response to the cold winter air.
Layer your clothing even if your fitness routine is at the gym. Leaving the house on a cold day is no fun for most people, as a warm bed and sleeping in are tough competition. So, when you do commit to leaving the house, make sure you’re warm, and if you bundle upright, your body might not even know you went outside! When wearing layers for an outdoor fitness routine, make it easy to peel off clothing as your body warms up to avoid overheating.
Eat well and stick with it. The winter season brings a slew of holidays, filled with parties and the temptation of unhealthy treats. But these treats can leave you feeling sluggish and even lower your immunity, leading to a greater risk of getting sick. Instead, find winter foods that you love and leave you nourished and feeling warm like sweet potatoes, vegetable soups, or vegetable stews with curry or your favorite sauce. You don’t have to ignore the treats altogether, just be sure to limit them and keep your healthy diet the center of your attention.
Add winter sports to your routine. If a regular run, walk or gym routine makes it hard to stay motivated, try adding a winter sport to your lifestyle. Skiing and snowboarding are fun activities that burn loads of calories. And if you only partake once a month, you might find new motivation as you change your workout and gear it to strengthening your body for your new sport. Other winter activities like cross country skiing and snowshoeing doesn’t require lift tickets, can be done in any park or a rural area and the gear is cheaper.
Change your workout for variety. It’s hard to stay motivated in winter, especially if you’ve been doing the same fitness routine since summer. So, why not treat yourself to a new workout? For example, if you’ve been working out in a gym, buy a fitness tracker and exercise outside. It might be cold, but warm up, layer up and get excited, because you’ll burn more calories and your body will use oxygen more efficiently, leading to better overall health and increased energy. If your workout is already outdoors, then hit the gym. Add weights to strengthen your bones and muscles or take a class and make some new friends. Classes are great to learn new ways to stay in shape and incorporate a great combo of resistance training and cardio. If you have a dog get outside, have a little fun game of chase or fetch, they will be sure to love it as much as you do.
Stay cozy and workout at home. Even if you can’t get yourself to go out into the cold, that’s no reason to let your fitness levels fall. Online classes or workout recordings can be a fun way to focus on different muscles during the winter months. These types of classes are affordable, and sometimes less embarrassing way to try new routines. If you’ve never done yoga, there are plenty of online yoga classes. If you want to dance but are too shy, there are many dance workout routines to choose from. And if this doesn’t get you excited, invest in a treadmill or elliptical. These are easy enough to step on and just start moving, no matter how sleepy you might feel. And the workouts can be as easy or as intensive as you like. Let's not forget using a fitness app like Yes.Fit where you get actual rewards for logging miles, and will give you extra motivation to get moving.
Find a holiday race and sign up. This can be a great motivator and add something different to your workout routine. There are plenty of holiday races and most benefit charities, so you can stay fit and help others during the holidays. Turkey trots are races found in many cities around Thanksgiving time and Christmas time might bring a Christmas lights fun run. Once you sign up for the race, you have a goal and it’s time to set a training routine. Stick with it and the day of the race will be a fun time to meet other people with similar interests or enjoy a fun day with friends and family. Many runs end with festivities that include food booths, drinks, and even rides or children’s areas; a great excuse for any winter hermit to want to come out and play.
1 Begley, S., Begley, S., Begley, S., Trust, T., & Layzer, C. (2017, December 19). Does exercise burn more calories in the cold than in warm weather? Retrieved October 22, 2019, from https://www.statnews.com/2017/12/20/exercising-cold-calories-burned/.