Are you one of those people who shut down and go into hibernation mode during winter? Many people feel that with cold weather and the lack of sunshine, all they can do is curl up on their sofa with a bunch of blankets, and watch Netflix all day. If you find that this description fits you perfectly, you might need some help staying fit and healthy over long and cold winter months. Here’s what you can do to make sure you stay in shape and keep your health even with the overwhelming cold:
Work out with a friend
It’s a proven fact that working out in pairs or groups gives you the motivation to keep going even when you lose your initial enthusiasm. This is because our minds don’t see these workout sessions as just workouts, but rather as quality time spent with someone we care about. And being able to do something that’s fun and actually good for you with people you love and care about deeply, will actually make you feel better and more inclined to put in the effort and show up day in and day out. This means that even when you don’t really feel like working out, a chance to do so with a dear friend will give you that much-needed boost to go out and get it done.
Implement tech into your routine
If you can’t find a workout buddy, or your best friend lives far away, there’s no reason to drop the workout altogether. There is an option to work with a digital fitness coach instead. Sounds crazy? It’s not really. Smartwatches and fitness trackers are already a part of our reality, and they count the steps you make while also monitoring your heart rate. There are even models that can measure your heart activity and track your sleep habits too. Alexa is a smart speaker that can take up the role of your personal trainer in an instant. If you only ask, Alexa can give you a quick and effective cardio routine or perhaps a list of core-strengthening exercise workouts. Most of these workouts won’t push you, but will rather let you set your own pace, take as many breaks as you need, and even choose your own motivational workout music.
Work out indoors
If the cold is what’s keeping you from getting outside, there’s no reason to forego exercise altogether. You can be just as active indoors, without having to subject your limbs and lungs to the freezing air. At-home workouts are many, and with so many resources available online, you can easily find something for yourself. There are exercise apps you can install on your phone, get-fit challenges you can join, and even exercise videos you can download or watch while working out. There are literally exercises that use nothing but a dust rag and a chair, and still manage to make you break a sweat. So, if getting out doesn’t sound very appealing at the moment, feel free to experiment with indoor exercises instead.
Remember it helps your mind
Not working out makes us feel lazy and sluggish. It makes us gain weight more easily and as a result, we are often feeling down, or even downright depressed. Your body’s nervous system is complex and sophisticated, it regulates and coordinates all body activities, and workouts to keep it in good shape. Neurology NSW knows the importance of physical activity and all the benefits it gives to your body and mind. Exercise, even moderate, will have your body release dopamine, thus lowering your cortisol levels and improving your mood. Once you start going, you will notice that you feel immeasurably better after a workout, even if you weren’t in the mood to exercise at first.
Make healthy meals
One thing that makes us gain more weight during the winter is all that delicious holiday food. When you pair it up with our innate desire to stay in when it’s cold, as a result, we get plumper and softer as the spring nears. While for some this isn’t an issue, many people start having self-esteem issues and even show signs of eating disorders and body dysmorphia when they are disappointed with weight gain. Instead of indulging blindly in sweets, candy canes, buttered popcorn and eggnog this Christmas, why don’t you try experimenting with healthier meals? There are many diet variations of the most popular dishes, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a smaller serving of mashed potatoes and gravy or having just one slice of grandma’s cake. Don’t restrict yourself, but try not to overindulge either.
Train yourself to enjoy the cold
Oftentimes, stepping outside and braving the snow, the ice, and the cold seems like too much. It might be because you generally prefer warmer weather, but it could also be that you just haven’t found that perfect winter activity you enjoy. If walking in the snow is too boring why not try ice skating instead? Or if you’re not steady on skates, how about skis? Snowboard? Sleds? Snowshoeing? Snowballing? There are so many lovely snow-involving activities, that it’s just a matter of time before you find the one you actually enjoy. All of these activities are only available during the coldest winter months, and it might be a while before you can enjoy them again, so why not do it now?
Set realistic goals
Being a beginner, it’s all too easy to push yourself too hard at first and burn out after a month of exercising. Easing into your fitness routine is a much better course of action, since starting small and setting attainable and realistic goals will fuel your motivation even further. Start slow and keep moving the bar slowly as you build stamina and get stronger. If you want to jog, you can start walking every morning for about 10 minutes first. After a few days you will feel confident enough to speed up your pace a bit, and then slowly start jogging. Going this way, you will be able to run (or walk) for half an hour most mornings. When you keep picking up the pace, you’ll soon work your way up.
Take precautions when working out outside
Exercising in the cold is often safe to do, but oftentimes you have to take certain precautions if you want to stay healthy and avoid injury. The biggest risks are getting frostbite and hypothermia after being out in the cold for too long, but if you dress accordingly and practice precautions, you should be just fine. Your body core temperature shouldn’t drop below 95 degrees F, and to stay warm, you can wear layers, and avoid wearing cotton tees and sweatpants. This is because cotton absorbs moisture, including sweat, and takes a very long time to dry out, thus keeping you essentially cold in the snow. Prevent hypothermia by making sure you understand just how cold it actually is outside. Keep your eye on the thermometer, but also take note of the wind and how sunny it is. If it’s going to rain, wear appropriate footwear and a jacket.
We can’t stress enough just how important it is to drink enough water. In the heat, we are aware that we sweat profusely, thus reminding ourselves to drink water often. In cold, we sweat almost as much, so replacing the lost fluids should be imperative. Keep your bottle of water close by, and if you have trouble remembering when to drink, you can download an app that will send reminders to your phone. You can keep a water bottle on you at all times, and take small sips before, during, and after workouts. Not only will your body be grateful for the extra fluids, but you’ll also experience fewer headaches and regular bowel movements.
Even though it’s winter and the sun is scarce, wearing sunscreen will help your complexion. Lip balm is also a good idea, as cold air makes your lips parched. If you exercise outdoors, you might want to apply sunscreen sometime before you leave the house, as the added moisture will feel extra cold, especially if it’s windy. On the other hand, wearing sunscreen even if you’re not exercising outside is a good call, since harmful UV rays are always present. Another handy way to protect yourself from the sun is to wear sunglasses, particularly in snowy areas, since snow blindness is a thing to watch out for. Caps with sun shields are a good call too, as these will keep you warm while also keeping sun rays out of your eyes.
If you tend to be less active and put on more weight during winter, you should make it a priority to be active and moderate your sweets and alcohol intake, especially during the holidays. Exercise will do wonders for your mental health and mood, but it will also boost your immune system. If you’re dedicated and determined, cold weather shouldn’t be an obstacle to getting out and exercising, but if it is, indoor workouts are a great idea too.
Mark Bingham is a marketing professional with over 5 years of experience. He is currently working with a number of companies in the field of digital marketing, closely collaborating with a couple of e-commerce companies. He is also a co-author on several technology websites.