When the days are shorter and it takes nearly 15 minutes just to dress up warm enough to withstand the outdoor temperature, it’s no surprise you feel less motivated to fit in a winter workout. But fitness experts agree the winter temperatures are no reason to press pause on your exercise goals and regimen altogether.
Here, they share some of their best-kept secrets for staying motivated in the winter.
“Before you start working out or even think about going outside, you should try to raise your internal body heat by doing a few stretches and even a rep or two,” suggests Caleb Backe, certified personal trainer and health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. “This is a good way to loosen up your muscles and get into the workout mindset while raising your body temperature. It gets your body prepared for the cold elements of winter.
Carve out a consistent time every day or every other day to exercise—and make sure it works with your schedule. “If you are an early morning exerciser, lay out your workout wear the night before,” suggests Gretchen Lightfoot, yoga instructor at Goorus Yoga in Palisades, California. “If you workout during your lunch hour, be sure to pack a lunch for yourself the night before so that you aren’t grouchy later at work from lack of food.”
Grab a friend or family member to hold you accountable. Having someone to frequently exercise with also opens the doors of opportunity to trying something new. You just each other. “I used to pick up my best friend every morning at 5:30 a.m. and get on the treadmill or the elliptical machine, followed by weightlifting,” says Lightfoot. “People in our hometown still tell us they miss our laughter at the gym.”
Speaking of laughter, research shows that exercise can help boost your mood and even alleviate long-term depression. This is important, especially during winter, when Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is more common. Think of how much better you’ll feel after the winter workout—and how much worse you might feel if you don’t. “The more you put off working out, the harder it is to get back into the activity later, which can become a vicious circle,” says Lightfoot.
While summer workout wear gets a lot of attention, there are stylish items out there for winter workouts, too. “Whether you plan to exercise outside or attend a yoga or Pilates class inside, invest in warm, but light layers of workout wear that make you feel and look great without weighing you down,” says Kimberly Corp, owner of Pilates on Fifth in New York City. “ Starting out nice and toasty will help warm your muscles up for exercise, and you can always shed if you get too warm.” Plus, new workout clothes are motivating enough.
It sounds too simple to be true, but a study by the University of Missouri found that people with the highest levels of non-exercise activity (things like walking, gardening, etc.) burned significantly more calories each week than those who clocked 35 miles on the treadmill. Corp suggests focusing on being physically active every day in any capacity you can, rather than only being active during a workout.
“This is a simple way to get the blood flowing again and get oxygen to your brain,” says Backe. “If you’re feeling unmotivated, it’s probably because you’re feeling sluggish or simply a bit lazy.” By focusing on your breathing for a few minutes and emphasizing long, deep breaths, he says you can clear your mind and boost those energy levels, making it a lot easier to slip into your workout routine.