Ok, one big holiday is down! Now it’s time to counteract all of the upcoming Christmas treats with some physical activity!
It can be more difficult during the colder months to become active or stay active. The shorter days are really my biggest challenge. I find that I have more motivation to exercise and be active during the light hours of the day and, of course, when temperatures are warmer. Once it is dark, even exercising indoors seems more difficult for me. I go into hibernation mode and all I want to do is go home and be sedentary.
Does this sound familiar? I think staying active in the winter months involves getting a little creative and sticking to a routine that can be flexible and fluid (also understanding that sometimes you just need to kick yourself in the butt). A fluid routine means setting out and exercising a certain number of days per week for a certain amount of time, but changing up the activity to decrease boredom. I spend a lot of time during the warmer months outside biking, hiking, and running. Typically, I can only partake in my favorite warm-month activities earlier in the day during the winter or on the weekends. Also, these activities can be more difficult to partake in due to needing additional specialized clothing to stay warm and more planning due to the decrease daylight.
Instead of my go-to outdoor exercises, I try to find different indoor exercise classes to enjoy like yoga, barre, spin, weight training or even Zumba. Mixing up my exercise activities season to season helps me stay in shape, but also helps me improve my strength and agility because these activities often work different parts of my body than my spring and summer activities of choice.
I also like to set different goals for myself each season. This practice helps me stay engaged with the activities I choose and also pushes me to work hard and stay focused. It can also be fun and liberating to try new things like a stand up paddle board yoga class at my local fitness center, I mean – why not? I do get my outside fix in the winter with downhill and cross country skiing – when we have snow. I find utter enjoyment engaging in these activities and then the exercise benefit is then really secondary to me.
I whole heartedly agree that finding an activity all-year round that you enjoy makes it easier to stick with them consistently, especially in the winter to provide additional physical benefits and enjoyment. Skiing is something my whole family enjoys as well as many friends. I am fortunate because my family introduced this activity to me when I was young, three or four year-old, and I have grown up skiing during the winter months in West Virginia and several western U.S. states. I love when winter rolls around because winter means skiing, which means that I get to spend more time with those I care about the most. Skiing really feels like more like a social activity which then ends up making the physical piece seem much easier.
Maybe strive to find an activity this winter that is fun for the whole family. I think you should always choose physical activity first and foremost that you enjoy. It could be ice skating one day per week or taking evening walks as a family or window shopping with some friends or walking during lunch or after work on an outside trail. You will receive the most benefit from exercise that you love and you will want to engage in it. Often, if I am able to go skiing on the weekends or during the week, I will be out for multiple hours because I enjoy it!
I find that I have to encourage myself a little bit more to exercise during the winter because I often feel fatigued from battling the cold weather. Even though it is tough to get started sometimes, exercise actually improves mood and energy level. If you are feeling tired in the evenings or mornings and it can be a struggle to complete certain tasks like cleaning or meal prep, exercise can improve your ability to complete these tasks.
Specific ways to stick with exercise this winter:
- Use a buddy system – meeting a friend or family member to exercise keeps you both accountable and it can be a great excuse to spend extra time together.
- Set a schedule and stick to it – adults need two hours and 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each week to maintain health and weight according to the Center for Disease Control. This translates into 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity five days per week at least. Look at your weekly schedule and find days/times/interesting activities to partake in. If you find three one-hour exercise classes each week that you like to attend, you are more than meeting this recommendation!
- Find activities that you want to do – what are your interests? Would you like to develop a specific skill or overcome certain barriers (physical or personal) with your exercise? Once you figure out what you interests are, research where you can go to partake in these fun activities.
- Log it to keep yourself accountable – logs are a helpful way to set goals for yourself, see how much you have progressed, and hold yourself accountable for staying on track. Smart phone apps are one of the easiest ways to track your physical activity easily. My favorite option is My Fitness Pal. Keeping a paper log is helpful too and I have included some options below that might be helpful.
Exercise or physical activity does not have to be daunting or seem like a chore. It you are struggling to be active this winter, take time to figure out some activities that interest you and find options that work with your schedule. I wish you a fun and active winter!
Post by Lemma