As the weather gets colder and daylight hours are shorter across much of the U.S., it obviously is a bigger challenge to exercise outdoors. Of course, the gym is a terrific option to stay active, but it’s no surprise that for some of us, motivation to exercise sometimes sags a bit during winter.
For whatever reason – freezing temperatures, gloomy days and snowy, icy road conditions – keeping up with regular workouts at the health club requires extra dedication during this season. Home gyms definitely help maximize convenience and adherence, but here again, staying consistent can be difficult at times.
Staying in shape over winter requires planning, flexibility and dedication – but is doable and rewarding. Plus, winter workouts — indoors or outdoors – offer lots of benefits for your body and mind. Commit to staying in shape over winter, and you’ll feel and look better once spring and summer come.
Benefits of Staying in Shape Over Winter
- More energy – You know that regular exercise gives you more energy, which can help you survive snow days or cabin fever without resorting to the couch all day/weekend with Netflix and lots of snacks. (Not that there is anything wrong with that once in a while).
- Quality sleep – When you’re active, you sleep better at night and wake up refreshed. Too much lounging or too many naps can hinder your sleep by making it harder to fall asleep or continually waking up during the night. Exercise during the day helps curb insomnia or restless sleep, fueling your body for the next day.
- Greater fitness – This is self-explanatory. Why work hard all summer to get/stay in shape, only to gradually forfeit your fitness level by falling out of your workout routine? It takes only 1-3 months of inactivity to lose everything you gained with regular workouts. Keep fit and healthy by getting in exercise year-round – even when it’s cold and dark, and you’d rather stay under the covers. We get it. It takes discipline, and it’s hard work. But it’s worth it.
- Extra motivation – If you’re well-rested, fit and have abundant energy, you can get a lot more done! That means you might finally tackle cleaning your office, take those lingering bags to Goodwill or embark on a home improvement project. Or join a book club (and actually read the book) or volunteer for a cause that is important to you.
- Boosted immunity – Granted, you typically run into more germs when people are cooped up indoors during winter – and the gym can be a germy place, but if you’re in good shape and healthy, and wash your hands often, you’re less likely to come down with a cold or the flu.
- No starting over – If you keep at it all winter, not only will your clothes fit, but you won’t have to start from scratch once spring comes. Believe it or not, it is easier to soldier on with your workout regimen than stop entirely and have to get going all over again. It comes back to Newton’s law: A body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Keep moving all winter long. You’ll be glad you did – especially when it’s time to don swimsuits, shorts and tank tops!
- Beat the winter blues – At this time of year, with the stress of the holidays, lack of sunshine and lots of indoor time, people are more prone to depression or feeling down and lethargic. Exercise is a powerful antidote to and treatment for depression, as it boosts self-image and confidence, along with releasing endorphins. Even just a brisk walk outdoors at lunchtime can do wonders for your spirits.
Strategies for How to Stay in Shape Over Winter
So, what are the best ways to keep consistent with workouts when motivation can drop during the winter months? Try some, or all, of these recommendations to adhere to your fitness routine all winter long.
- Plan workouts – Schedule time in your calendar for exercise, and guard it like you would any other appointment. Know whether you’ll be going to the gym or exercising at home, and determine if you will take a class or do your own routine.
- Enlist accountability – Partner with a workout buddy to keep you both consistent and to add some social time to sweat sessions. You’re more motivated to exercise when you know your pal is waiting for you. Share your workout goals and stumbling blocks so you can support each other.
- Go pro – Along the lines of accountability, hiring a personal trainer for individual, partner or small group sessions can get you to the gym regularly, particularly when you’re paying for them! Plus, a trainer can add new interest, changes and excitement into your regimen, which can keep you going on your own over time.
- Gear up – If you’re bored with your home gym, treat yourself to something new, like a BOSU Balance Trainer, kettlebells or a bench. Consider a larger purchase, such as an elliptical or stationary bike, for a holiday present to yourself of the family. Or even just invest in new shoes or a workout outfit.
- Get techy – Try using an activity tracker, such as a Fitbit, to encourage you to take more steps. Or download a fitness app or two that provide workout ideas or let you track your progress.
- Embrace the outdoors – Sure, it’s cold. But bundle up appropriately and get some fresh air, and, if you’re lucky, sunshine. Go running or cycling if sidewalks and roads permit, walk the dog, meet a friend to walk or try skiing, snowshoeing or ice skating.
- Try something new – Get out of your comfort zone, and your rut, with a new class, a new workout, new equipment, a new gym or even just new playlists. If you’re outside, vary your running route, for example; and if you’re indoors, take on something different, like laps in the pool or pickleball.
- Look ahead – Set a goal to keep you going, such as losing 10 pounds by April, running a race in the spring or completing 5 unassisted pull-ups by March. Tell someone about your goal, log it in your phone or on your computer and look at it often to keep you on track.
- Take a trip – If the same-old scenery is bringing you down, get out of town. And don’t just take a cruise or vacation where all you do is lounge and eat, but deliberately select an active itinerary – such as a ski trip, a spa with exercise and healthy food or a group hiking/backpacking journey.
- Be flexible – Sometimes life gets in the way of even the strictest workout schedule. We get it. Whether your alarm didn’t go off, you have to work late or the kids are sick, don’t beat yourself up and quit altogether. Try to find a way to fit in some exercise when and where you can – even if it’s just a short workout – and then get back in the game as soon as possible.
Exercise should be part of your lifestyle, no matter what the season. And keep in mind that spring always comes after winter!