Generally, winter brings variety of festive cheer, the holiday spirit plus the hustle and bustle of Christmas shoppers. However, there are certain things about winter which aren’t quite so motivating – Namely, the long cold dark days, the constant craving of sweet stodgy foods and the longing desire to hide away from the world under the comfort of your duvet until the sun shows its face again next spring.
Battling with the urge to retreat to your cave and hibernate during the winter months means a lot of people find it hard to retain their summer motivation for regular exercise and healthy living.
In my experience, detailed below are the five of the most common challenges people face during the winter period, coupled with a few solutions to help you tackle Christmas feeling more like a Winter Olympian and less like a Christmas Oompa-Loompa.
It’s Too Cold, Too Dark & Too Wet To Exercise!
Nothing beats the feeling of exercising outdoors, with the sun on your face and warm fresh air in your lungs. That sensation can quickly change though when your muscles are freezing and the rain has penetrated every item of clothing you have on.
Solution 1: Get The Right Gear
Train smart and make sure you are dressed appropriately to tackle the cold wet conditions. Here are a couple of personal recommendations to help you fight against the elements.
A Decent Beanie Hat
Keeping warm is crucial when working out to maintain muscle elasticity and prevent injury. A large majority of heat is lost from the head whilst training outside in the cold. A decent Beanie Hat is comfortable, warm, sold in variety of colours and is great value for money (so you wont mind sweating in it).
If you are anything like me, when your hands are cold, then the rest of your body feels it too. Running gloves are light weight, comfortable and you can purchase them with a special material in the finger tips which allow you to operate your smart phone whilst wearing them (Handy for your smart phone running Apps).
Base Layer Top / Skin
Personally, when I train outside I love base layer tops. They really hold the heat in and are both lightweight and flexible enough to allow you to move freely whilst still allowing your skin to breathe.
Solution 2: Bring Exercise Inside
If you are not a gym member and want to try exercising at home, working out can be both effective and inexpensive.
Home Based Workouts
Check out my workout programmes designed specifically for training at home with minimal equipment, ideal during the winter months. You have my recent 30 Day Ab Challenge to keep your abs tight and core trim, my fast & effective Express HIIT Cardio Workout to keep the calories at bay and to boost your fitness and the Minimum Kit, Maximum Results circuit workout to tone and tighten your muscles.
Also, if you have equipment (namely a Resistance Band) you could try my Resistance Band Total Body Workout. If you don’t have one, maybe you now know what to ask Santa for this year….
The Desire to Comfort Eat
When our bodies are cold, tired and feeling a little low, our subconscious recognises this and sends us out to forage for things which will make us feel better. During the winter time, these items often manifest themselves in the form of hot chocolate, mince pies, warm stodgy meals and the odd box of celebrations here and there.
We feel a desire for sugar which may not normally match our personality/desires. For those who do enjoy a sugar binge, often want it even more than usual.
The Solution: Create a Seasonal Food Plan
For example, during the summer you loved your chicken and quinoa salad, but when it’s cold and dark outside, leafy green vegetables may just not cut it for you.
To help satisfy your need for comfort food, opt for low-calorie, healthy yet filling meal choice instead – For example: Rolled porridge oats with a scoop of chocolate protein powder and blueberries is a delicious and filling start to the day, chunky homemade chicken and vegetable soup offers a satisfying and low-calorie lunch or dinner option.
For some great and interesting recipes, check out Fitmencook.com – I absolutely love this website. Kevin Curry offers a variety of amazing recipes for all occasions, easy to make and, most importantly, it is all super healthy. Whether you are looking to bulk up, lean down or just want some healthy food options, Kevin’s website, App and YouTube Channel all offer a variety of meal/snack recipe options coupled with quick and easy tutorials on how to prepare each meal if you need help/advice. If you still feel the need for a sweet treat, check out their recipe for Chocolate Protein Energy Bars – Simply delicious!
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a depressive illness caused by shortened daylight hours and a lack of sunlight. People affected by SAD can often experience lethargy, sleep problems, anxiety, low motivation and winter illnesses.
A low mood, tiredness and lethargy can also be induced by an inadequate amount of Vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D is produced inside our own bodies through exposure to the sun’s natural UV rays. The less sunlight we are exposed to, the less Vitamin D we produce which can result in us feeling more than sub par.
Solution: Change Your Diet
Increasing your Vitamin D is crucial according to the NHS.UK website which claims a Vitamin D deficiency affects around 50% of all adults.
You can increase your Vitamin D intake with the consumption of certain foods to help boost your energy, which could include:
- Oily Fish (Salmon, Sardines and Mackerel)
- Fortified Fat Spreads
- Fortified Breakfast Cereals
- Powdered Milk
You can also take a multivitamin to help boost your intake of Vitamin D if you are a vegetarian or need another option.
In addition, drinking lots of water to stay hydrated has a direct link to your energy levels. Also, burning energy helps create energy, so maintaining your regular workout habits will definitely help keep your energy up. You could even brave the great outdoors for exercise and increase your Vitamin D while exercising!
Loss of Motivation
Lets face it, December can be a busy time. For many, it’s the end of the working/financial year, deadlines have to be met, plus arranging Christmas, shopping, family time, the expense of it all… Is it any wonder people lose their health and fitness mojo during the festive season?
In addition, winter also brings chunkier clothes which we feel more comfortable to hide under. With summer feeling like a million miles away, we often lose sight in why we should be working out during the coldest months of the year considering our swimsuits are banished to the closet for at least another six months.
The aesthetic benefits of exercising at this time of year are, therefore, not quite often as important which could result in lack of motivation to workout.
Solution: Create Training Goals for Specific for Winter
Body builders have it sussed… In the winter ‘off season’ period, they generally eat more to bulk up their muscles and grow their bodies whilst dropping cardio down which can reduce overall training time.
Reduce Workout Time
If you have less time or simply don’t want to spend what daylight we do get in the gym, plan your workouts to last for shorter periods. Limit your workouts to 30 – 45 minutes and focus on weight training or body weight endurance circuits with less rest to keep your cardio up for maximum health benefits.
Do HIIT Training
If you are a runner, you can focus on short but intense training sessions. Fartlek Training is ideal for this time of year and, if you like cardio in the gym, HIIT based interval training sessions should see you fairly exhausted after 30 minutes or so. Highly productive and effective.
Create Short Term Goals
In addition, give yourself some short-term goals to achieve during the winter period. This could be as simple as committing to exercise regularly or you could be a marathon runner who needs to get your miles in before the spring.
You may want to use the winter to build muscle or to simply exercise to feel better and get a little more energised during the time of year when people generally have less energy. Either way, goals will keep you motivated and consistent with your training, so think hard, write them down and stick to them.
Over Indulgence / Party Season!
The inevitable peer pressure of the office party, the mammoth Christmas dinner, the flowing alcohol of New Years Eve, bowls of chocolates which seem to magically appear on the sideboard during this holiday… Then the feeling afterwards which often means we have taken all the benefits of the previous years training and healthy habits and thrown them all away… Now just a distant memory.
The Solution: Plan Your Indulgence in Advance
For the average person, we all know we will consume foods we don’t normally eat this Christmas, the challenge is learning to balance it out so you don’t over indulge.
Plan ahead when to let your hair down – For example: A big Christmas lunch, a few drinks over New Years or perhaps a day or two if you are feeling rebellious where you simply throw caution to the wind and eat and drink whatever you like.
The challenge, however, is to stick to your promise… Stick to your objective and you will feel rewarded and satisfied. Lose sight of the goal and over indulge more than you planned and you will be more likely to feel a sense of failure and disappointment. Oh, and possibly a tummy ache too!
Have Your Say!
What else gives you the fitness winter blues? Please share your thoughts in the Comments Section below. If you liked this article, please don’t forget to give me a Facebook Like, a Share and/or Subscribe for new Blog Posts sent direct to your email. It’s FREE, after all!