Staying motivated to exercise during the winter months
November 24, 2022
two women walking in cold weather

3 minute read

If you’re struggling to exercise now that the weather is getting colder – you’re not alone.

Let’s face it, going running or walking on a cold, dark winter morning doesn’t sound appealing. When it’s cold, and the sun has disappeared, it takes a lot more motivation to work out than it did back in July.

But, it’s so important to find your inner motivation and stay active when the weather changes. Although curling up on the sofa with a blanket and hot chocolate may be the preferred option through the winter, we need to stay active for both our physical and mental health.

We’ve put together some top tips from industry experts to help you stay motivated and active.

Sign up to a challenge
There are some excellent online tools such as the NHS Couch to 5K app or Couch to Fitness. There’s more challenges here.
Having a goal can give shape and structure to an exercise routine. Whatever your motivation and fitness level, there are numerous events (many of them free) that you can enter.

Work out in the morning 
There are some serious benefits to starting your day with a sweaty session. Researchers from Brigham Young University found that people who work out in the morning end up being more active in general. They also found that exercising early on in the day can help you consume fewer unnecessary calories. To help you start your day on the right foot, try leaving your workout clothes on the radiator overnight, so they are nice and toasty when you wake up. When you hear your alarm, don’t hit the snooze button as tempting as it may be. Get straight up, get dressed, and get out the door before you can even think about how cold it is outside.

Make it social
Some people love exercising on their own, but for others, it is helpful to have company. Buddy up with a friend or get involved with a local group or class. Parkrun, which organises free 5km timed runs in more than 500 locations across the world, is a great way to meet people in your local area and is easy to join. There is another incentive to working out with pals, too, according to Dr Joe Costello, senior lecturer in exercise physiology at the University of Portsmouth. “Research suggests that if people are meeting up with friends to exercise they are less likely to pull out.”

And another great weekly social way to exercise is parkrun. We have 21 parkruns across Suffolk and you can run, job, walk, volunteer or cheer – everyone is welcome to the parkrun family. Find out more on the parkrun website.

Keep warm in your kit
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing. Base layers, gloves, headbands and hats are all useful for extra warmth when you’re exercising outside. There’s nothing better than a brisk cold walk to improve your mood, then come back home and have a nice hot cuppa.

Train at home
If the thought of working out at home brings to mind grainy images of lycra clad aerobics instructors, it is time to rethink your strategy. From free online tutorials, videos and podcasts to subscription-based services such as Zwift (used by some professional cyclists as part of their training programmes) the options are plentiful. Walcott recommends using indoor training to complement outdoor training. “If you’re training for an outdoor race, for example a 5k or 10k, then you should be doing strength training as well.” The NHS’ Strength and Flex plan is designed to be equipment-free and easy to follow.

Keep track of your training
There are numerous apps and gadgets that can help keep track of your activities. And it doesn’t need to be tech heavy. Making a note or placing a dot on a calendar or chart can help you visualise how much you have already done. If counting steps is your thing, be aware that just racking up the numbers is not enough. Earlier this year, health experts encouraged people to increase the intensity of their walking, rather than just focusing on distance. Public Health England’s Active 10 app combines walking intensity and time. Not having enough time was cited as the main reason why people struggled to fit in exercise, according to a recent survey by PHE, so a 10 minute brisk walk each day is among its recommendations.

Give yourself a rest
Rest and recovery are important, especially if you are undertaking intense exercise or building up your fitness. According to Michigan State University, athletes who are sleep deprived may experience subtle changes in hormone levels, leading to higher levels of cortisol and a decrease in human growth hormone, which is active during tissue repair. Be it a hot drink or a warm bath to soothe your cold bones, having a reward to look forward to can be key on cold, miserable days.

Mix it up a little
If the thought of heading out into the cold is still too much to handle, switch up your exercise routine and try something new. Whether it’s reformer Pilates, boxing, or a ballet-inspired fitness class, there are plenty of indoor activities you can do. Change the way you exercise and learn something new. Sometimes a lack of motivation can come from boredom, so try a new activity and mix it up.

Reward yourself
You’ve put in all the hard work, don’t forget to reward yourself. You deserve a treat, and you have most definitely earned it.  Positive rewards are an essential part of forming good habits and behaviours. Be kind to yourself and kind to your body. Yes, the weather is changing, and the days are colder and shorter, but that’s not to say you can’t stay active and motivated.

It’s time to get moving and keep your workout motivation at an all-time high this winter!

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