Since I have been running less these past few weeks while recovering from the marathon, my time outdoors has significantly decreased. While my husband and I walked into church yesterday morning, I joked that I barely noticed winter was coming now that I haven’t been running daily. This marathon happened at a great time in the year, because it’s timing allowed recovery to occur at the same time as daylight savings – when the sun suddenly sets in the middle of the afternoon. The early darkness always coincides with the times that my motivation to stay active in the winter decreases just as much as the temperatures.
Experiencing all types of weather is one of my favorite parts of running, and no time is more exciting to run than when the seasons are on the brink of changing. Now that most of the trees are bare and the first few snowflakes have fallen, it’s time to prepare ourselves for winter. While the change in seasons is initially very exciting, winter does seem to get frustrating quicker than the other seasons. The increasing darkness, decreasing temperatures, and icy sidewalks make me want to curl up on the couch more than they make me want to get moving.
The initial excitement always leaves me feeling motivated, thinking that I won’t need a strategy to keep it that way. Fast forward a few months, or even just a few weeks, and I find that motivation slipping away and time spent relaxing increasing. The effort required to stay active in the winter increases drastically as time moves forward and the temperatures drop even lower.
This year I am trying to be proactive and plan ahead. No matter how excited I am for that first big snow, I know I’ll be feeling burnt out by January. Each year I tell myself that this’ll be the time things are different, but don’t do anything to change it. This year I am going to take action to make it that way. My goal to stay active in the winter looks very different than it does in the summer. The early darkness and colder temperatures make being active outside a little more challenging, but I’ve formulated a plan to combat these obstacles.
My game plan for fitting in fitness this winter allows me a little more flexibility knowing that the holidays are approaching, and incorporates a lot of variety in my workouts. This is how I plan to stay active in the winter.
How to Stay Active in the Winter
Plan indoor, at home workouts. With the early sunset and colder temperatures, motivation to leave the house drops significantly. Staying cozy in your house seems much more appealing the stepping outside and freezing on the way to the gym. Accepting this fact helps you plan ahead to avoid the battle of skipping a workout. Now is the time to try out workouts on YouTube, in your home gym, or some strength and HIIT moves. Working out in your living room while watching TV is more appealing than driving on snowy roads to the gym.
Incorporate shorter, more effective workouts. With the holidays approaching, obligations become more frequent and free time gets increasingly limited. In order to work around this, try and plan shorter, more intense workouts. Rather than longer, relaxed workouts, get the same benefit from a shorter amount of time. Try out some HIIT workouts, strength sessions, or intervals during your cardio workout. Make the most out of the time that you do have.
Take advantage of winter sports. When we think of summer, we think of time spent outdoors in nature. It always seems that there are so many more opportunities to be outside in the summer. However, I think some of the best only happen during the winter! Downhill skiing is one of my favorite sports and such a great workout. Even sledding can provide a great calorie burn by walking up the hill. Ice skating, cross country skiing, snowboarding, running and hiking all can be done in the winter as well.
Complete your workouts as soon as you get up or as soon as you get home. Don’t put it off! Plan to workout as soon as you wake up, get home from work, or when lunch starts. The longer you wait to start, the less likely it is to happen. Have your clothes and equipment ready so you have less excuses to skip it.
Create a routine and stick to it. Similar to above, plan a time to workout each day and stick with it. Maybe you workout each morning before work, or right when you get home. Try and keep the time as consistent as possible so your body and mind know what to expect. Sure, things happen and schedules change, but finding consistency as often as possible helps your body create a routine. Having a routine makes you less likely to skip workouts.
Use this time to focus on strength training. While it is definitely possible to get long runs in or lengthy cardio sessions, completely them does become more challenging with the winter weather and holidays. Plan ahead for the year, and use these months to focus on strength. Strength can be built at home in your living room! Take advantage of the weather and create a plan that will leave you prepared and fresh for spring. You could build your base mileage in preparation for an upcoming running training plan, or increase your strength for those intense workouts to come in spring.
Decide your priorities. Is your priority to workout every single day? To workout for a certain amount of time? To maintain weight? Gain muscle? Improve strength? Decide what your main priority is so that when things get busy (which they will), you know what’s most important. This will make choosing what to give up much easier.
Cut yourself some slack – mentally prepare for some missed workouts. Above all, remind yourself that winter and the holidays are the time to spend with family. Your workouts shouldn’t get in the way of what is truly important to you, but should help enhance those times. Understand that things will come up that you have not planned for; you may get sick, have a family party, or find yourself snowed in. Don’t beat yourself up over a few missed workouts. Things happen, and understanding this and working around it mean that you’re still on the right track.
Overall, take advantage of the weather and do some things now that you can’t do during other times of the year. There are some really magical things that happen in the winter! It doesn’t have to be a chore to stay active in the winter, and fitness can fit into your lifestyle no matter what your goals are. I hope you are all looking forward to this change in seasons as much as I am!