Whether you have already got an established fitness routine, or are wanting to embark on one, Winter can be a tricky time of year to stay focused and on track. There is something about the darker nights and mornings that link into our natural instincts that lean towards comfort food and staying warm.
Our minds and bodies are tricked into thinking the days are shorter due to the decreased daylight hours, but there the same number of hours in each day. The temptation is there to either stay in bed later or go straight home after work rather than exercise.
Missing the odd training session, or over- indulging occasionally in Winter comfort foods, won’t knock you too much off track, BUT if we are not careful, these behaviours can soon become habit.
DID YOU KNOW…
It takes a minimum of twenty-one days for a new routine or outlook to become a habit.
When maintaining or establishing new routines or habits, remember doing something is better than doing nothing and these somethings do build up over the course of a week, a month or year.
On particularly busy days, we might find it more difficult to fit structured exercise in to our daily routines. It is important not to feel guilty about this, after all, we all have responsibilities. Our aim should not be perfection but being able to honestly say that we do our best with the time we have available.
So, how do we stay motivated and focused?
By cultivating the right mindset and focussing on the positive aspects and achievement that each change brings. Give yourself a mental incentive or reward – we are not talking cake here but instead making small changes to your outlook that can increase your positive thinking and motivation.
Here are some ideas to help keep you on track through the Winter months…
Make it work for you.
What time of day do you prefer to exercise?
Before or after work, during the day or a combination of the two?
How would you prefer to exercise? Gym, running, Personal Training sessions or Group
Look at your schedule and ask yourself how you can fit this in and maintain or establish this as habit.
You get to choose the times and types of exercise that work for you!
Focus on what you have done, not on what you haven’t done
Think about all the physical activities you may already do during the day. Whether it is mowing the lawn, walking the dog, or walking from the bus stop – these all count!!
Start small – molehills are easier to conquer than mountains. Whilst some people can embrace a whole new routine immediately, others find it easier to make small changes and establish these before adding further changes. If you find eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day difficult – aim for three, one you have established this, then build from there.
If you can’t commit to training five times a week – aim for two before looking to increase it, you are more likely to stick with it then.
You are choosing the goals and commitments you feel are achievable.
You feel good about doing your best.
You eat three portions of fruit and vegetables every day for a week
You complete two training sessions and three brisk walks in a week
If morning is your preferred time to exercise, get up an hour earlier.
Yes, this is an old one! But here’s a trick. If getting out of bed is difficult at the best of times, simply place your alarm away from the bed so you physically must get out of bed to turn it off. This also has the added benefit that if you use your phone as your alarm, it’s away from your bed, reducing the temptation to scroll in bed and improve also sleep quality.
An hour to yourself
Allows enough time for a shower and/or a pot of your favourite tea or coffee after exercising.
You have exercised already today so you have the evening to yourself.
Leave your exercise kit out ready…
or put it on the radiator overnight (bonus your clothes are warm when you put them on!)
Your kit is already out so no trying to find it in the dark!!
You’ve got yourself organised
Drink a glass of water upon waking
Rehydrate yourself after sleeping
One glass towards your daily fluid intake
Build exercise into any unused time
EXAMPLE: stretch one side of your body for a few minutes as the kettle boils, then the other side as your morning tea or coffee brews. Allow yourself enough time to enjoy your brew.
A pot of tea or coffee and time to savour it
Ten minutes stretching every day is seventy minutes per week
Go for a lunchtime walk
Even five minutes can make a difference and improve your mental outlook. Often in Winter, it can feel as if we are travelling to and from work in the dark, so getting some daylight can make a huge difference. Many of us may be affected by low mood or SAD/Seasonal Affective Disorder during the darker Winter months. Lack of daylight can be a contributing factor, so any time spent outdoors in Winter can be helpful, especially if combined with some activity. If you can manage a fifteen-minute brisk walk, then you could walk as far as 1 mile.
The average brisk walking speed is 2.5 to 4 miles an hour
Some fresh air and some time to yourself or with a friend/colleague
ACHIEVEMENT: You’ve walked a mile
If you’ve got a healthy lunch or dinner ready, it’s easier to avoid unhealthier options. Alternatively, think of using a slow-cooker and having a meal ready for when you get home from work or your evening workout, rather than snacking or buying a ready-meal. Adding beans, pulses and vegetables to soups, stews and casseroles will increase the nutritional value of your meals.
You don’t have to cook as it’s already done and waiting for you
Making healthy, nutritious meals
Saving time wondering what to eat and cooking when you get home (more time for yourself)
Get a workout buddy to help keep you focussed
As well as training with your personal trainer, this could be a friend or even a fitness app on your phone.
Sharing your workouts or goals with someone else adds accountability and can increase motivation and support; you may find it harder to let someone else down rather than just yourself.
You have got someone you can talk to, and can help motivate each other
Working out together can be fun and motivating. Just make sure the workout itself is focussed and that you are not distracted too much by chatting.
Mix things up.
Doing the same thing can lead to boredom and decrease motivation. Trying something new can help keep exercise fresh and invigorating.
Change can be refreshing and uplifting.
You are challenging your body and mind in different ways.
Yes, that’s right. Indulge. The trick is how you indulge, and how often. This could be a long, hot soak in the bath or a day out somewhere new. It could also be cake, a glass of wine or something else viewed as not quite so beneficial.
Factoring in an occasional ‘indulgence’ does help develop a healthier overall approach to food.
Food shouldn’t be viewed as good or bad, but as food, some of which is more beneficial and healthier than other foods. There are many recipes for healthier versions of traditionally viewed ‘treat foods,’ such as chocolate brownies made with prunes or mashed pulses. But even these, should not be consumed in large quantities; aim for a balance.
The trick is to indulge now and again, enjoy it and look forward to the next time knowing that yes, you can. Think of how you can indulge yourself without food or alcohol or look at healthier versions of treat foods. If you crave something sweet, a few dried apricots, some homemade popcorn, or a couple of squares of dark chocolate may suffice.
Enjoying treats in moderation, and finding balance
These are only suggestions and starting points. Think about how you can improve your own mindset and make some tweaks to your lifestyle. Keep at it, one week at a time.
Remember small changes when combined become a bigger overall change, and before you know it, Winter will be giving way to Spring.