Leaves are changing (or have already fallen), sweaters are being unearthed, and bikinis have been safely tucked away until spring, when we’ll try them on again and collectively panic about getting rid of the winter pooch.
What if I told you it didn’t have to be that way?
How refreshing would it be to get to skip the spring scramble to get back into swimsuit shape?
While it may seem like a fairytale dream, the solution is pretty simple: don’t let the winter blues kill your fitness game.
It can be hard to stay consistent in the winter — holiday stress creeps in, we all get busy travelling and shopping, and tempting treats abound. Besides, who wants to get up and go to the gym when it’s cold and dark outside?
Keeping up with your winter workouts can help combat whatever winter throws at you. Regular exercise is effective in combating stress, keeping seasonal affective disorder at bay, and maintaining your physical health (and waistline).
With the weather chilling, though, being trapped indoors for workouts can be boring. Even fitness enthusiasts with the best intentions might fall off the wagon from sheer boredom, if nothing else. To keep your winter workouts interesting, and yourself in your best shape, consider these switch ups to keep your brain as engaged as your body.
Vary Your Training
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. If you don’t want to be bored, don’t do the same thing every day, or even every week.
While there should be an underlying plan to your fitness routine if you have goals you want to meet, that doesn’t mean that mixing things up is forbidden. If you normally run outside during fair weather, don’t assume you’re stuck on a treadmill or indoor track until the temperature warms. Consider mixing in swimming or a spin class to take the place of one of your weekly runs.
If you like the idea of classes, see what your gym offers. Most gyms will have a variety of cardio, strength training, spin, and flow classes available to members. Classes often offer modifications to meet varying skill levels. The best part? With everyone hiding from the cold, you won’t be the only new kid in the room.
Want to do something a little more off the wall? Make up a “workout game” to your favorite show. Every time something cliche or overdone happens, perform a specific number of a certain exercise. That way, when you really don’t want to leave the house and Netflix is calling, you can kill two birds with one stone.
Just make sure that any changes or additions you make to your routine don’t detract from your overall goals; slowing progress can be an even faster trigger for burnout than boredom.
Try to Get Outside
While you may be trying to avoid the cold and inclement weather, there are certain ways to use a winter wonderland to your athletic advantage.
There’s no doubt winter snow sports are popular. Skiers and snowboarders come out of the woodwork as soon as the first layer of powder coats the slopes. Mountain sports are great opportunities for cross-training; skiing and snowboarding are both awesome leg workouts and encourage body awareness and balance. Almost all ski lodges offer beginning lessons or weekend packages to help you on your way if you’re a newbie.
If sliding down the slopes isn’t quite your speed, consider cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. The benefits to your legs are immense, and you won’t want to miss the scenery you can find in winter backcountry.
For those who live in areas that don’t get quite as cold and snowy, or for the daredevils out there, winter kayaking and surfing are options. Waterways often have much different feelings in the winter; water levels change and create new terrain to explore. Just make sure to go with someone experienced and be prepared for winter water temperatures. Extra bonus: you’re less likely to run into crowds in the winter months.
If all else fails, throwback to your childhood and get friends together for an all-out snowball fight or sledding day. You’d be surprised how fast you get out of breath just playing, and the camaraderie makes it easy to lose track of time.
Join a Sports League
If you don’t like being cold (like me), there are plenty of indoor options that don’t feel like conventional gym workouts. Ditch the weights once a week in favor of a competitive sports league. Most cities have recreational sports leagues available. If yours doesn’t, check with local colleges; sometimes their intramural leagues are open to the community.
Team sports will engage the strategy part of your brain, as well as providing community interaction. If you’ve got a competitive streak, this is a perfect opportunity to push yourself a little farther without it feeling like work. Plus, the scheduled nature of games (and practices, if your team is serious) commits you to at least that much work every week. No skipping out when you’ve got a team counting on you!
If this sounds like your jam, look for fall and winter leagues for volleyball, soccer, and basketball. If you’re new to the game, try to get added to an experienced team looking for players to meet the member number — this way you have built-in guidance.
If team sports just aren’t your thing and you’re more of a lone wolf looking for a competitive push, check for masters swimming or indoor track events. Late winter and early spring are common times to host these events. Turn your regular cardio into a personal challenge or replace your summer road races with some indoor track goodness.
Take Up a New Skill
Really need to kick your winter blues in the tush? Spend the season adopting a new skill or sport. By starting a journey at the beginning of winter, you’ll have a goal to carry you through until the flowers start blooming again.
For inspiration, look at local studios, small businesses, and college catalogs. Have a sport on your bucket list? (Mine’s aerial yoga). Now is the time to find out where the teachers are, and then go learn the ropes.
While you’re searching for your new niche, look for studios offering winter deals or sign-up bonuses. Businesses know commitment to being active drops off during these months and will lure you in with whatever they can.
Don’t know where to start? Shop around. Look for indoor activities with a strong community or experienced instructor base. Yoga studios, gymnastics workshops, barre studios, and rock climbing gyms all offer challenging options that keep your mind and body engaged. A lot of places will do a free trial class or offer a drop in price until you’re sure you want to commit.
Need even more incentive? Check Meetup or Groupon for communities and local deals. Sometimes it’s easier to jump in when you’re not going it alone — or when it doesn’t cost as much.
Bring a Friend
If all else fails, find a partner. Everyone needs an extra push from time to time, and more often than not, that push is in the middle of a cold, dark, December morning after one-too-many cinnamon rolls.
Similarly, if you’re relegated to your gym for winter, a person can be the facelift your environment needs. Plus, this way you’ve got an accountability buddy to make sure you get to the gym and put your hours in.
Are you people-averse during your workouts? Put together a new playlist or find a favorite podcast. There’s nothing like making your workout a double-whammy by learning about current events or history while chipping away at your fitness goals. Some of the best workouts I’ve had have been while I’m laughing my butt off, literally, listening to a comedy podcast while on the treadmill.
Things to Remember
Not everything works the same for everyone, and just because something worked for you last year doesn’t mean it will work this time. This is both frustrating and an intriguing puzzle. The key? Listen to your body to figure it out.
I’ve used all of the above strategies at different times to varying degrees of success — it all depended on my mental state and the point of my fitness journey I was at. Point is, do what you need to in order to keep moving.
Find your motivation and hold onto it. Trick yourself into being active even when you don’t want to, and the benefits will come back tenfold. Just think, if you exercise three hours a week, you stand to add up to five years to your life! That’s five more holiday seasons and five more summers to spend on the lake.
Plus, how good will it feel to get your summer clothes out without having an I-need-to-workout crisis at the same time?