How to stay motivated to exercise in winter: 5 Top Tips

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Woman lying on a mat exercising listening to fitness podcast

There’s something so much easier about exercising in spring and summer isn’t there? Those long, light-filled days encourage us out of hibernation and into a much more active way of life. But since working out for only half the year is a luxury our bodies can’t afford, how can we stay motivated to exercise in winter, no matter how cold and dark it gets?

man in hat running up concrete stairs - stay motivated to exercise in winter

For those of us who are new to exercise or have just never succeeded in making regular exercise a habitual part of our lifestyle, the idea of pulling our trainers on in deepest darkest winter seems intimidating at best and impossible at worst. Having trained clients in all weathers for many years (Clapham Common at 5.45am in a hailstorm is one I’ll never forget!), I’ve noticed some behaviours that really help when making exercise habitual, even in the colder months. Sure, some people pick up these habits and behaviours quicker than others. They might not all work for you; but there’s a chance a couple of them might revolutionise your attitude to winter workouts.

Here are my 5 top tips to help you stay motivated to exercise in winter.

  1. Dress the part.

Yes; you may take this very first tip as permission to treat yourself to some new active wear. We all know that we tend to feel better when we feel confident in our clothes, but that’s easier said than done isn’t it? Especially in lycra… in January… after the Christmas calories have been consumed. But take it from me, you will feel far more motivated to exercise (and confident enough to exercise outside of the safety of your own house) if you are wearing the right clothes. So, what are the right clothes to work out in? They definitely won’t look the same for everyone. Consider four things: comfort, support, temperature and style.

  • Comfortable active wear shouldn’t cut into your flesh, it shouldn’t be so tight you feel like you might need to be resuscitated, and it definitely shouldn’t make you itchy! Choosing good quality training wear in your true size will mean you can get on with your workout instead of worrying your top is riding up. It’s of utmost importance that you do the squat test in the changing room whilst trying out leggings – you can thank me for that one when your leggings stay put through your next Body Pump class! I’ve tried every fitness clothing brand out there over the years and time after time, I come back to good old Nike for leggings that make me feel great.
  • Supportive clothing can make you feel so much more svelte before you even start your warm-up. Consider having a professional bra-fitting service to help you choose your sports bras, especially if you have a larger chest. There are lots of sculpting leggings now which use tummy control technology, they work a bit like spanx used to (remember them?) but with much more elasticity allowing you to move and breathe freely.
  • In terms of temperature, it might be a bit of trial and error. If you plan to be exercising outside then layers are your friend! You won’t regret treating yourself to a fleece headband if you are keen on getting out running, they let your head get some fresh air meaning you won’t overheat in a way you might in a fleecy hat, but still keep your ears toasty warm. Check out Amazon for great deals on thermal gloves, another must for early morning pavement-pounding.
  • Just because it’s active wear, it doesn’t mean you have to totally abandon your personal style. Don’t feel like you have to stick to all black either! Inject a bit of fun with some animal print leggings (you can never have too many pairs in my humble opinion) or accessorise your vest with an off-the-shoulder t-shirt channeling your inner ‘flashdance’. Have fun with what you wear to class and I promise you’ll feel better about exercising before you even start.

2. Get your sh*t together!

And by this I mean get yourself organised ahead of your exercise session; set yourself up to succeed. My personal favourite time to exercise is first thing in the morning. I’m not talking about some 5am ungodly session like the Hollywood celebs do… I’m too big a fan of my sleep. No, I’m talking in the realms of 6.30am on a week day and 7.30am at the weekend. I love the fact that my workout is done for the day and I’m buzzing with energy before breakfast. Exercising early also makes me more productive, I’m much more prone to procrastination on the days I haven’t done an early workout. However there’s no way, as a crazy busy Mum of three, that I could do those early workouts if I hadn’t organised myself the night before. Whenever you’re going to fit in your exercise in winter, make it easy for yourself! Having less daylight hours means we feel the day is shorter and exercise might not be a priority to fit in. If you’re exercising first thing, lay your kit out ready the night before, pack school bags or make packed lunches in advance. If you’re going to exercise in your lunchbreak or after work, again, get your kit ready, book into your gym class ahead of schedule and maybe think about how you’ll prepare your evening meal too. There’s nothing better than coming in from an evening to workout to a slow cooker meal all ready to dish up with minimal effort.

3. Commit to exercising every day for at least two weeks.

Sounds easy right? Two weeks will fly by! But in winter as we all know, nights in front of the TV can be more tempting than heading out to the gym. That being said, it’s very difficult to measure the benefits of exercise for you personally if you only train sporadically. There’s a multitude of robust evidence about what happens to the body and the mind when you exercise regularly, but to give yourself a boost and stay motivated to exercise in winter, I would advise committing to train every day for two weeks. By two weeks in, exercise scientists report that there can be a reduction in anxiety and depression (both of which can be exacerbated by short, dark wintry days) as well as measurable improvements in both cardiovascular and muscular fitness.

4. Keep a diary of how you’re feeling.

If you’re the type of person who is quite hard on yourself; this could be a really useful tactic for you. It doesn’t have to be War and Peace, just a few lines a day about what exercise you did (or didn’t do), how that made you feel and how you feel you’re progressing. You will likely see quite a clear trend that on the days you fit in a bit of exercise you feel more confident, clear-headed and proud of yourself. You can use this as a motivational too to help you stay motivated; reading it will remind you that you won’t regret squeezing in a workout tomorrow, in fact you’ll feel much better for it.

5. Think of winter workouts as maintenance.

For my final tip I’m going to be really honest with you and say that for some people, finding the motivation to exercise long-term is always going to be a struggle, and there are so many reasons why this might be the case. Poor mental health, physical ailments, hectic careers and lifestyles can all be obstacles to staying motivated to exercise, and winter can be the trickiest time of year for those people. If this rings a bell for you then my top tip is to think of winter workouts as your body’s maintenance period. Maybe you’re not going to be smashing out your pb’s on the running track like you might do in May, but that doesn’t mean we can afford to stop exercising completely. Just as the body responds positively after two weeks of exercising each day, it just as quickly responds negatively to two weeks of inactivity. If we choose to do nothing physical throughout the colder months, we will have lost muscle tone and cardiovascular fitness by the time spring rolls around, possibly bringing with it some unwanted extra weight. So, dial your workouts down a notch or two if that’s what feels right for you. Choose low impact workouts like barre, pilates and yoga and combine them with heart-pumping power walks every other day. If you can keep your fitness ticking over in winter, you’ll undoubtedly reap the benefits when the sun gets his hat on later in the year.

*** For more information on fitness classes with me over Zoom, drop me an email!

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Categories: Body and Soul

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