Body & Mind
Ways to workout in winter
Exercise can be hard in winter. But identifying what stops us, planning well, and creating the right conditions can make winter work-outs some of the most rewarding of the year.
Find the motivation
Exercising in the cold burns fat quicker than more comfortable temperatures, because deposits of so-called "brown fat" are activated as the body learns to get warmer, faster. So, winter might even be better for weight management than those jogs in more pleasant weather.
Secondly, exercise is a great way to beat winter blues. Studies link increased exercise to better moods for people with depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
If you're able exercise outside during daylight hours (think running at lunchtime), you'll get more of that elusive vitamin D from sunlight which is good for bones, teeth, and muscles.
For many, the rush of Endorphins we get from exercise is reason enough to prove it's good for us.
But how do you translate that knowledge into action?
Planning and writing down exercise sessions ahead of time makes it more likely you'll do them, and if you're exercising before work, smooth the transition out of bed as much as possible.
Lay out exercise clothes and shoes the night before, pack your work bag, and plan both your outfit for the day, and your post work-out breakfast.
For outdoor winter exercise, the right clothing will make a huge difference to your experience. Layer up for warmth, with exercise-specific fabrics that dry quicker than cotton.
Bright colours and reflective strips are best for dark winter nights and mornings. Stick to well-lit, familiar areas.
If you need music, turn the volume low and just listen with one ear-bud, staying aware of what's going on around you.
Find a way to stay with it
Getting out of the door can be the hardest part of exercising in winter. I actually prefer running or doing vinyasa yoga outside in winter because it feels more of an adventure, I would suggest having a companion to combat those moments where we weigh up whether to stick to plans.
Have a training partner who you have made a promise to, then you will find it easier to get your ass out of the bed. And also it's nicer because you can chat to each other, or you can push each other in the moment.
Set a goal
Setting a goal is another great way to stay motivated; just make sure it's achievable. You don't have to work out every day. Thirty minutes of cardio exercise three times a week is much better than nothing.
If you can't persuade a buddy into ensemble exercise, or the idea of wintry running or cycling still isn't appealing, consider exercising indoors. Gyms are an obvious solution; joining a gym or group aerobics or kick boxing session could keep you on track. Make them more bearable by arranging your day to avoid busy times.
Winter can also be a time for indoor activities you might not get around to otherwise. Dance, hot or regular yoga, circuit training, are all great ways to spend an hour in a long evening that might otherwise be spent eating, drinking, and looking at screens.
It's important to find something you love to do rather than making exercise a chore.
There's a debate about the rewards-after-exercise question. Some suggest a small food reward is a good motivation. On the other side, those who think connecting exercise with snacks are a mistake.
The ideal is probably to try and frame exercise as a pleasure, not a punishment-think of it as personal time, or a time to think, or listen to music.
Likewise, food ideally shouldn't be a reward. Whatever you eat, make sure it's delicious and that you take time over it, which will make it feel more satisfying. If you're working out, you need to eat some energy-rich carbohydrates-like whole grains and potatoes and some protein, which helps build and repair muscle: oily fish, eggs, and beans all count. Add vegetables and salads, too.
If it helps motivate you to exercise and form a habit, small food rewards-like a square or two of chocolate-can work.
Here are some non-food-based rewards, especially for winter:
v Join a pool or gym with a Steam or Sauna, and end your workout with a welcome blast of heat,
v Soak after a run in a Warm Bath,
v Book yourself a weekly Massage at the end of the work-outs,
v Think about what you'd find most Relaxing (sleep, TV, reading recipe books) and let yourself do it for a chunk of time once you've exercised,
v Take Rest days: They're important for allowing muscles to recover, and they feel all the sweeter when you've been out in the cold on the other days of the week.
Enjoy working out in winter and stay active and healthy all the year round!
The writer is fitness consultant and owner of Combat Gym