As the days get shorter and weather less and less predictable, keeping active often seems a lot less appealing.
However, in the winter, more than ever, it’s important to keep active to maintain a positive mind-set and get some fresh air. Something that annoys me is this attitude that spring and summer are the only months when you should take care of your body, and the rest of the year your health just doesn’t matter.
What are some of the benefits of exercising in the winter?
• Regular exercise can help you feel more energetic, which can make it easier to get out of bed on even the coldest mornings.
• Working out during the day can also allow you to sleep better at night, and we all know of the benefits of a good night’s sleep!
• Moderate exercise can strengthen your immune system, which is helpful to fend off those bugs that would otherwise hit.
• Our mood can often take a downward turn in the winter, and endorphins released by exercise can counteract this, improving your sense of wellbeing.
So, with that in mind, here are some of my top tips for getting up and out as we move towards winter:
Lift weights to gain muscle
Most people want to be a little leaner in the summer, but that is much harder without gaining muscle first. The great thing about winter is that we naturally eat more, fuelling intense workouts and allowing us to put on more muscle. Take advantage of this and use winter to gain muscle and improve your strength and form. Lift heavier weights, enjoy longer sessions and work on your technique – your body will thank you for it!
Have a Schedule
Setting your alarm earlier in the morning can be SO difficult, and is only made worse by dark mornings. However, having a schedule that you stick to and allows for plenty of rest and recovery makes it that little bit easier to say to yourself ‘this may be horrible now, but I know it’ll make me feel better and means I can relax later’. Getting into a routine regardless of the weather outside means that you can take the decision making out of working out. You just do it without thinking, and reap the rewards later.
Stay active during the day and get outside
This is so important throughout the year, but becomes a little less appealing when going outside means getting cold and potentially (/probably for my UK audience) wet. However, moving around during the day is as important to your health as your workout and reduces risk of lots of diseases, as well as clearing your mind to improve focus during the day. If you have a desk job, try to stand up and walk around regularly. Taking a walk after lunch can help break up the day, improve digestion and allows you to get some vitamin D while the sun is at its peak. Low vitamin D can contribute to poor mental health, so getting some sun on your face (even on a cloudy day) can help combat the winter blues.
Find something you enjoy!
This is advice for all year round but especially winter. Study after study has shown that workout plans are significantly more likely to be continued if they’re enjoyed and not monotonous. Mix things up and find something you really, really love. Then it’ll be so much easier to get out and do it even when you’re not feeling it.
As important as working out is rest time. If you plan your workouts, don’t forget to plan in rest days too. On my rest days, I take longer walks in the park to keep moving and to switch things up a little bit. Don’t forget that a good sleep routine will help give you the energy for your workouts too, so be serious about getting your 8-9h.
My favourite winter activity is hot yoga – when I’m chilled to the bone this is the only thing that can heat me up! Stretching in winter is even more important than summer because the cold weather and reduced movement can mean that we are more prone to injuries. Incorporating yoga and/or pilates can be a good way to get moving without it being too intense.
If you’re going to workout outside, make sure you have suitable clothing! It may seem obvious, but starting from cold and then getting hot outside can leave you prone to chills when you stop working out. Invest in some good quality winter layers that will keep you warm in the cold and cool you down when you heat up.
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