Leaves are changing color and scattering the ground, boots are re-emerging from their summer hibernation, there’s a crispness to the air. Here in Western Oregon, autumn is in full swing and winter will approach before we know it. If you’re like me, you’re anticipating a challenge getting yourself to workout for the next 5 months. There’s a reason the USA’s Pacific Northwest has a reputation for rain and grey skies. We also get a once or twice yearly ice storm and some snow. Perhaps you too will fall victim to the winter workout struggle.
There are good reasons to persevere through the next long months, however. Here are some great benefits of outdoor winter exercise:
- Burn more calories – thanks to your body having to work harder to regulate your body temperature. Not gonna say no to this perk, amIright?
- Build a tolerance for the colder temperatures – it will get easier the more you do it.
- Get your daily dose of vitamin D – which we all know is essential to receive for 10-15 minutes a day.
- Boost your mood – endorphin production is even higher when you workout in cold weather than it is in warm weather (especially with summer humidity) leaving you with higher post-workout satisfaction. You’ll also be fighting the common Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or “the winter blues”.
- Boost your immune system – with moderate levels of exercise, you improve your defenses against cold and flu viruses.
Alright, alright. The benefits of keeping up an exercise routine during the winter are undeniably worth it. Will I think that when my alarm goes off in the dark, cold mornings though?
MOTIVATION AND EXCUSE-BUSTING
I’m just gonna come out and say it. I love sleeping and I especially love nesting under the cozy warmth of my blanket pile. I already struggle with the motivation to exercise, so in the winter months, tossing aside that coziness and stepping into the relative chill of the room to do something active is not an idea I relish. Between the cold, the dark, and in my area – the constant rain- how’s a girl supposed to maintain a good routine when you’re fighting that battle?
Wake up to LightIs your first hurdle the act of waking up to darkness? Invest in a wake-up light. The Sunrise Simulating Light from Philips that I use gradually goes from soft red/orange to bright morning yellow. According to Philips, “92% of users agree that it is easier to get out of bed” when they use a wake up light to wake up naturally. Clinical studies also show increased energy and motivation upon waking up. Alarm-light combinations will offer natural sounds to simulate morning as well, but you might also try choosing music that gets you feeling pumped up and ready to get going.
Start with a literal warm-upTo help you get out of bed easier, time the heater in your room to increase the room temperature before it’s time to get up. Studies have shown that people generally sleep better when they’re cool, and that too much warmth can disrupt one’s sleep. Why not set your sleep to be disturbed around the time you need to wake up anyway?
Another thought is to place your exercise clothes on or near the heater so that they’ll be nice and warm when it comes time to put them on.
Once you’re up, what will help you get yourself started?
Water First thing in the MorningDrink some water, first thing. Over the length of the night, you have become dehydrated and it is important to re-hydrate yourself before beginning other activities. Drinking water upon first waking also jump starts your metabolism, helping your subsequent exercise to be more effective.
To help you get going faster, consider taking a quick shower, or even just splashing some water on your face, to speed up alertness. Most people are also more likely to follow through on their workout plans if they get dressed right away.
Find Some Moral Support…
The general consensus is that one of the most effective ways to follow through with your exercise plans is to have a workout buddy. When you’re obligated to show up because someone is expecting you, it’s a lot easier to push past excuses and apathy.
Many people find that a good running buddy option is their dog. Check out this list of the 20 best breeds for running.
…or mentor a newbie
Along the same lines as going with a buddy, it can be extremely beneficial to both parties if you take a newbie under your wing. Not only will they receive the benefits of advice, feedback, and increased satisfaction, but you’ll both be more likely to push through your lack of motivation and winter slumps.
Be Prepared with the right clothes
Having the right exercise clothing and gear for winter workouts will obviously make the experience more positive. If you’re going to be outside in the cold, be sure to invest in good winter athletic clothing. One big motivator to get out and about is to treat yourself to a new pair of shoes or workout clothes. Something that makes you feel great or empowered to push yourself.
Keep it Simple
As fun as it is to hit those awesome trails outside of town or to shake things up with new locations and terrain, there’s something to be said for simplicity if you’re struggling to find the motivation for a workout in winter.
Don’t complicate things by having to travel far or put forth too much effort or you’ll be more likely to put things off. Maybe you can take a brisk walk during your lunch break, or decide to take a few laps around the neighborhood first thing in the morning. Simplifying your routine may prove to be the make-or-break aspect of doing something vs. nothing.
Warm Up Inside before heading out into the cold
Before you head out into the chill, perform your warm-up exercises indoors. Doug Herron, director of The Alaska Running Academy in Anchorage, states that you’re at risk of injury if you step out into cold temperatures with cold, tight muscles.
“Warming up raises your heart rate, core temperature, and blood flow to your muscles, which minimizes the stress your body undergoes when you ask it to work hard in challenging conditions.” 1 says Herron. So do some jumping jacks and pushups or a dynamic warm-up.
refresh your playlist
I love to bust out my tried and true fave tunes, but there’s something magically motivating about a new playlist, don’t you think? Music can be a powerful tool in increasing the effectiveness of exercise. Avoid getting into a rut and give yourself something to look forward to! Try putting together a new batch of music that you find engaging, uplifting, and motivating, especially for the winter months.
pay for a class
Oh, how I haaaaate wasting money. Last month I signed up for an adult swimming class, both to refresh myself on proper technique and to ensure I keep up some activity. I learned that I really, really dislike jumping into the chilly pool (even though I get used to it once I get going).
I sort of dread Tuesday evenings now. But, I dread wasting money even more, apparently. If you’re the type who finds that motivating, signing up for a cycling class or gym membership could be the best health-investment you make!
Hold yourself accountable with social media
Facebook and Instagram aren’t just for posting pictures of your food, kids, and pets. They can be great resources for social accountability. If you’re struggling to get moving, use social media to announce your plans, or even to share your struggle with motivation. These can be great tools to receive an abundance of well wishes and pushes.
I had a friend who was working really hard to get her health back into check. She posted daily her triumphs when she worked out longer than usual, or got herself to do something when she wasn’t in the mood. I was so proud of her and loved getting those updates, and I know I wasn’t the only one! It might feel a little egocentric to go this route, but you might be surprised to see how many people in your life appreciate the opportunity to give their support and encouragement.
schedule it in – prioritize your schedule
Have you noticed how long your to-do list is? Even when you think you don’t have much going on on a particular day, the time always seems to fill itself effortlessly. How often have we intended to exercise a certain number of days/week and then, well you know…let’s just say the goal is undermet. #Storyofmylife.
During the summer, you might spontaneously decide to go for an evening run, but that’s probably less likely to happen in the winter when it’s dark and/or cold. To make sure your workout happens, be sure to schedule it in and even more importantly, prioritize it, otherwise a hundred other things will push it out.
What works for you?
What do you think? Are you ready to keep yourself moving all winter long? Is there anything I didn’t list that really motivates you to keep going? Share your ideas and feedback in the comments!