As hard as it can feel at times, winter workouts can be pretty easy to fit in with a bit of planning.
by Hank Dart
Winter is a special time of year. It’s a season of festive holidays and long, cozy evenings spent with friends and family.
Unfortunately, many of the same things that make winter so special can also knock us off our regular physical activity routines. Packed calendars, short days, and bad weather are practically ready-made excuses for staying inside on the couch rather than lacing up our athletic shoes and getting in our workouts.
But staying active throughout winter is important – and well worth the extra effort it may sometime take. Staying active is, of course, great for overall health – but it can also give you a boost in energy and mood, and help keep at bay the holiday weight gain many of us fall victim too.
And as hard as it can feel at times, winter workouts can be pretty easy to fit in with a bit of planning. And the change of pace winter provides can actually be fun and allow you to explore some new activities or approaches to your workouts that can even liven things up during the warmer parts of the year.
See which of these tips might apply to you and use them to make a plan to keep your body moving through winter.
Embrace the change of seasons
It’s easy to miss warm weather and long days, but try to embrace the change of seasons as an opportunity – a chance to try some new activities, meet some new workout partners, or simply to challenge yourself in a new way. Sometimes just a small shift in mindset can make all the difference.
Make the most of the weekends
With weekdays filled with work, school, or other important duties, the weekends can offer more flexibility for fitting in longer walks or other workouts. A good overall goal for a week is 300 minutes of moderate physical activity, like brisk walking. But you don’t need to get that in equal amounts. You can focus on shorter workouts during the week, with longer ones on the weekend when you may have more time.
Go to a gym class
You may prefer to walk or ride your bike outside, but a gym class can be a great and really fun way to get in a workout when it’s just too dark or stormy to get outside. A group class can provide extra motivation and give you a chance to try types of activites you might not normally choose. YMCAs and many county recreation departments offer affordable options.
Walk at lunch
One way to make the most of winter’s short days is to fit in a workout during lunch. Grab a quick bite and then go for a walk with a friend, or hop over to the gym for the noon boot camp class.
Wear your workout clothes to bed
Mornings can come quickly in winter – at least they can feel that way. So, doing what you can to save a little time can really help you get out the door for a workout before work or school. It sounds a bit peculiar, but sleeping in your exercise clothes – or even just some of them – can take away one step in the morning and help you lace up and get out the door.
Plan for tomorrow’s workout today
One of the best ways stay on track with your exercise routine is to make a plan. Figure out what your activity is going to be the next day – or next week – and then do what you can beforehand to help make it happen. If you want to go on a walk before the kids go to school, make lunches and check homework the night before. If you want to meet friends for a yoga class after work, arrange carpools for the kids and get dinner in the fridge beforehand.
Wear enough warm clothes – in layers
Wearing the correct clothes for the weather is one of the best ways to enjoy outdoor winter activities. It can take some experimentation to know what works best in what conditions, but once you have it down, you’re set. One tip: layers are always best so you can remove or add clothes as you warm up or cool down.
Meet up with friends
This is a good idea any time of year, but especially so during winter. Setting a weekly time with friends to go on a walk or hit a gym class makes for a fun, social time – that also includes a great workout. And with friends counting on you to show up, you’re much less likely to skip out because of busy schedules or bad weather.
Go for a streak
Who doesn’t like the occasional challenge? When life knocks us off our regular activity schedules, one way to try to get back into the groove is to challenge yourself to exercise a certain number of days in a row. It can be five days, seven, 30. You can even see how long you can go without missing a day. The trick is just to do something every day that gets you moving more than you normal would. When you’re back to a more normal routine, you can drop the streak but keep up the workouts.
Keeping up your routine is great, but it’s also important to stay safe if you’re walking, running, or doing other activities in the dark. Pick as safe a place as possible, and it’s always best to workout with a friend and to wear reflective clothing and use a flashlight. If safety is a question, change plans and pick a different route, time of day, or type of activity. Be flexible.
Winter has its workout challenges, but it can also be a great time to switch up our routines and try some new activities. You may even find a new favorite and come into spring feeling fresher and fitter than ever.
This post originally appeared on the Gateway Region YMCA blog.