Survival Guide to Fitness in Winter
It's hard right?
Well.. in winter, for some reason, it's like it gets even harder.
Exercising in summer is a breeze. All the daylight hours you could ask for .. weather that invite outdoor workouts .. the season for shorts, tanks and crop tops ..
In winter that all changes. At least, in Scotland it does.
If you're somewhere in the world where in summer it is extremely hot - as in, too hot to exercise - then yeah, okay, maybe this blog post slightly misses the point for you.. but maybe the winters are tough too! You're here now anyway, best just to keep reading ..
This blog post hopes to help you through the dark and dreary struggles of the Great British winter (which typically spans across approximately 7 months of 12 in a year..) and keep you fighting fit 'til springtime.
Note that this is not a *summer bodies are made in winter* spiel. Sorry ..nope.
That's so 2018. This is just some real talk about how we can get through the struggle together.
When I write this blog post it's mid-October. So it's basically full-steam ahead to winter. The days are DEFFO shorter - mornings are dark, teatimes are dark .. It's half a Celsius off a frozen windshield before work. Depending on which half of the globe you're in, your winter might not be for another 6 months, in which case no excuses from you, plenty of prep time.
Let's get going.
Cosy bed > Cold rest of world.
Two issues with the bed. The first is how wonderful and cosy it is.
So when the 6am alarm goes off for your morning workout and you cannot. leave. the. duvet. what happens?
Personally this is one of my greatest vices for morning workouts.. I try to maximise every nanosecond inside my warm cosy bed before I absolutely have to leave to go to my workout.
And, look, if I am 100% honest with you, 9 times out of 10 I would probably forfeit my workout for an extra half hour in bed (hashtag fitness-inspo). So know this.. the only reason I actually get up is the fact I AM THE INSTRUCTOR AND I KIND OF HAVE TO BE AT THE CLASS. For many of you reading, you might not be the instructor and so this failsafe is not applicable.
The solution: you need to make it as easy as possible to show up and as difficult as possible to back out.
The Carrot: set out the gym kit the night before, lay it out in the bathroom or spare room so you physically have to get out of bed to reach it. Hairbrush, toothbrush, deodorant.. lay it all out so all you need to do is tumble out of bed (for me, this part is literal) and place your hand on each item in succession without much consciousness.
The Stick: Pre-book a space at the class, pre-pay for the class. Tell the instructor you'll be at next week's class, agree with a pal to go to the class together. Post on social media the night before how much you're looking forward to said class in the morning. Accountability - if you find it difficult to hold yourself to your word, let others! And no, it's not about 'shaming' or feeling pressured to do something you don't want to do (I'm gonna do a separate blog post on this later) .. it's just pure and simple accountability.
The Carrot: Prep your breakfast the night before. Kind of following on from the first point on making the overall process as painless as possible. Overnight oats.. a banana with peanut butter.. corn flakes with some fruits on top.. a coffee and a few bites of a protein bar are just some of my up-and-go breakfasts. Many of us will need fuel for morning workouts - enough so we're not tummy grumbling 3 minutes into our BODYPUMP warm up, but not too much that we're queasy during the bicep track. Fasted cardio doesn't serve miraculous purposes it promises (google it), and some of us might feel good exercising on an empty stomach .. but just eat a damn banana and go workout.
The Stick: Is there a reason you need to go workout in the morning, do you maybe need that spare time later on in the day for chores, time with the family, or Netflix bingeing? There are enough hours in the day for it all, but if you choose not to use 1-2 of those hours for the sake of extra rest then just come to peace with it. Prioritise and plan.
The Carrot: Pick your poison (LOL not literally) - I mean - find the workout you're going to do online the day before, or pre-book into that class, or set your run/ cycle route in advance. The hard part was getting up, so don't faff at the last hurdle - just go.
Cosy bed > Dark mornings.
Okay, second part of the bed issue. Dark winter mornings and evenings aren't great, especially in this part of the world. Safety first and all that.
All of the points above apply in terms of getting you up and away. But say you're going for a cycle, a run, or another outdoor workout and the cold & dark is a problem .. It's time to adapt and overcome.
Depending on where you do said activities, investing in some good kit speaks for itself. This may include;
Reflective clothing; no joke, have you driven past a runner or cyclist in the dark and almost pee'd a little at how you almost did not even see them!? On the flip, take note of how visible runners and cyclists are when they were reflective gear. Be smart. Be reflective.
Headtorch; sometimes the run/ bike route might not have streetlights all the way, or they might be on the dim side. A real good start to running and cycling is seeing where you're going. A headtorch can help you with that.
Winter gear; good news is that most activewear brands do kit designed for Autumn/Winter, just like normal fashion. These products will usually include sexy names like 'thermo', 'clima', 'heat'. Basically a little thicker and better sweat-wicking so you can stay comfortable working out in colder temperatures. Layers are key, and cotton is one to avoid. Don't underestimate running gloves and a headwarmer (a Buff neckerchief works well around your head too) !
Team up; safety in numbers. Check out if there's a local run/cycle group to chum in with over the dark months, or find a pal who would be reliable enough to head out with. *obviously adhering to local social-distancing guidelines wherever necessary.
Ask for help
If getting out and about in the dark/ cold/ wet weather is really too much to overcome for a few months in the year it could be worth investing in a good PT or coach who can help you with a programme to suit your needs. A good coach will be glad to help you.
Developing a programme for your needs is a great way to help you feel successful. From personal experience, I worked with a PT doing workouts both in the gym and outdoors and usually in the mornings before work to accommodate my job and teaching my classes. I had paid for this service and used this person's time to put together a programme just for me. Plus, knowing there was someone out there waiting for me was enough to help me just get up and go. I would not have been able to do that on my own.
Seasonal sweet treats
I'm not going to spend long on this.
I have already seen the foil covered chocolate goodies, the winter spice treats, the bite-size party food snacks, the...
Sorry, I got a bit carried away. There's something about food that you only get at Christmas time ... I bet if it were on the shelves during the rest of the year it wouldn't be half as tempting!
You've heard it before.. it's the age-old script where we all overdose on festivities between October and December .. we get guilty about it, then decide to do something about it just in time for the media shifting its focus from table-spreads of tantalizing treats at low-low prices, to 'new year new me' regimes consisting of juices/shakes, fad 30-day programmes and how to lose a stone in 6 minutes bestsellers.
You do you. But here's the thing.
Keep doing what you've been doing all year round .. a few workouts a week, getting your NEAT up, grazing on the good stuff - AND - you can have a chocolate reindeer for your pudding instead of that cheesecake, or a mince pie with your cuppa instead of that cereal bar. Guess what? You'll be fine.
Lastly, I am including this part semi-speculatively.
In theory, you're busy working hard with your fitness regime. Then one day, the gyms need to close again due to Govt guidelines .. the horror.
The gyms close, but you don't need to throw in the towel. Equip yourself with a variety of options to stay active.. I did a blog during Lockdown talking about home workouts which might come in handy. Bottom line: support your local fitness professional wherever you can. If your gym closes, chances are the instructors and trainers will need to look at ways of connecting with participants - so if the gym is offering online solutions then fantastic.. but if not, reach out to instructors and see if they're doing it themselves.
I know it's not ideal but adapting and being resilient is a cool attribute.
The carrots and the sticks,
Expect adversity and overcome it,
Ask for help if you can't do it yourself.
Winter is coming, good luck!
If you have any top tips that work for you feel free to share them with me on Facebook or Instagram!