Motivation for exercise in Winter
It’s quite easy to feel hostage to your bed on those cold Winter mornings. The alarm goes off, but you hit snooze and you snuggle back under the covers. Likewise, as the sun starts to set and the temperature drops, your afternoon walk feels less appealing. So how can you maintain a regular exercise routine when the weather is a little cooler? With a few strategies in place, you can continue to stay fit, motivated, and warm.
Dress for the weather
Where possible, consider exercising outside the coldest parts of the day. However, if this is not possible, you will need to dress appropriately. This might include wearing layers of clothing and then you can remove the outer layers as you warm up. A waterproof jacket or umbrella might also be required when it is raining and cold outside. Closed toe comfortable footwear like sneakers will also keep your feet warm and supported.
Protect your skin
Remember, Winter is not just cold, it’s dry. To prevent your skin from drying out, it is important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. If you don’t drink enough water, the glucose in your bloodstream becomes more concentrated and that leads to higher blood glucose levels. Your kidneys then must work overtime to deal with the excess glucose, by expelling it from your body in your urine. The more you urinate the more likely you are to become dehydrated.
Remember, also, if you’re going to be exercising outdoors in the sun, it’s still important to apply sunscreen to areas that are uncovered, to avoid sun damage. Sunglasses will also protect your eyes from UV exposure.
Extend your warm up
As the temperature outside begins to get cooler, our muscles and joints take that little bit longer to warm up and work at their best. As a result, it’s important to consider an extended warm up (of at least 10 to 15 minutes), before commencing any exercise during winter. This might include some gentle walking along with some dynamic stretches. For example, if you’re about to go for a brisk walk, you might like to consider marching/jogging on the spot, leg swings (backwards, forwards and side to side), body rotations, star jumps and lunges. This allows your muscles to move through their full range of movement, before you increase the intensity.
Consider exercising with a buddy or group
Some people prefer to exercise on their own and that is totally okay. But if you are struggling to get motivated to move during the cooler months, perhaps you could consider exercising with a friend, neighbour, or community group. This can help with maintaining motivation and accountability when it’s that little bit harder to keep a routine. Some group activities might include organized walks with the Heart Foundation, aqua aerobics in a heated pool, tai chi or dance classes. Not only do you get some structured movement into your day, but you also connect with other people with similar interests.
Indoor physical activity
Despite the weather being cool, there are also opportunities to mix up your routine and exercise inside the comfort of your own home. Stretching, light aerobics or resistance training can be performed at home with ease and with very little equipment. If you are interested in increasing your strength, you can use your own bodyweight, cans of food, or a Theraband for resistance. Alternatively, there are several great online programs that you can participate in. Just remember to exercise within your own capabilities and limitations and seek clearance from your doctor.
Keep it simple
Make exercise fun, not a chore as this will largely impact on your level of participation and enjoyment. Use a routine that’s simple and easy to start. You don’t necessarily need to set aside long periods of time for your workout. Instead try to do small chunks of activity throughout the day. But consider the Australian Physical Activity Guidelines of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most days of the week. Start small and slowly build up the frequency, duration, and intensity of your exercise sessions.
Preparation and planning
Finally, preparation is key to maintaining a regular exercise routine during winter. This might mean setting an alarm, putting your clothes out the night before and scheduling it into your diary like any other appointment. That way you have already allocated time to get it done. If you think you might need some extra help with increasing your motivation, reach out to your doctor for a referral to an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.