Ten Tips To Stay the Exercise Course in Winter

By now you’re a month into your weight loss resolution, working on getting through your first winter of maintenance mode, or you’re a seasoned healthy liver and the winter doldrums are kicking in. I hear your pain. I’m right there with you. A little honesty, I’m sitting in my hotel room killing time before heading to my meeting and didn’t follow through on my plans for an outdoor run (or any run) this morning.

To be fair, I did go to the fitness center after I checked in to the hotel last night. I even kicked my husband off the phone because talking to him was starting to give me an excuse not to go for my treadmill run. He’d already talked me out of an early evening run through NYC mid-town even though there are a ton of people out and about, perfectly safe, but not to him.

When I get stuck, in a rut, negative, or defeated, I turn to my internal motivation list. Thinking you could use the encouragement too, I’ll share my tips that help me move on and start moving on these short cold winter days.

  1. Create a habit: I have two habits that keep me running. When working from home or at the office, I go to the gym and hit the treadmill before I eat lunch. When I’m traveling, I check-in to the hotel, drop my bags in my room and throw on my running clothes and hit the gym. These habits are working as I can get in 3 of my 5 running days without too much thinking during the week.
  2. Set the right bar: Let’s face it, running outside can be more interesting as you can take in the scenery, especially if you trail run. I can easily run an hour. But, the treadmill is much harder for me as I can only stare at the wall with my music going or watch a TV show. It’s just not enough. So, I reset the amount of time I spend running to a minimum of 30 minutes. I may do more, but I won’t do less. I run slower on days I’m sore or tired and I push hard when my energy is front and center. I listen to my body and mind.
  3. Rest days are okay: In the warm weather I was exercising in one way or another every day. Sometimes I was running in the morning and paddling in the afternoon. Very active.  Winter, completely different. I have a 5 day rule and work at not losing it on my two rest days. It’s hard, but using machines just seems to cause me more aches and pains than outdoor runs and activities. Maybe it’s the cross training. Whatever it is, my two days off works to get my body back and make it easy to keep up my workouts without the excuse that I hurt.
  4. Clean those closets out: I have an enormous walk-in closet. I have years of clothes in all sizes and styles. My bathroom closets and linen closets are full. My storage closets and rooms are piled with old toys, books, furniture and things I never knew I had or wanted. I have spent hours cleaning house on the hoarding. All that walking back and forth, bending, climbing and lifting gives me activity/move minutes. It’s as good as walking to get my steps in and I am getting more organized by the day.
  5. Eat right: If you are slowing down activity wise, the worst thing you can do is increase what you eat or eat more unhealthy food and meals. If during the warmer months I had an especially large meal (my guilty pleasure is the Chinese buffet with dumplings) then I could always go for a trail run or bike ride and feel like I was burning off my gluttony. Keep up your healthy eating program so you don’t sabotage yourself during the slow activity period.
  6. Find a new activity: Never a fan of exercise classes, I did see a couple that looked like fun. No, I haven’t done it yet. But, I am considering hauling my butt to the gym for one of those HIIT workouts. Even if I don’t, I’m still thinking about mixing it up to hold back exercise boredom.
  7. Make a friend pact: I haven’t liked it in the past when Tom would get on me about exercise and eating right. But, that was when I was chubby and in denial. These days, with both of us on the healthy living program, its easier to prod each other if we see slacking. Tom’s even said to get on him. I am ambivalent, but we agreed how he could tell me without me getting annoyed. If it’s not your SO, get your besty or sibling. Healthy peer pressure is good for the heart.
  8. Get outside: I know, its cold. There is ice. While I’m not interested in running outside below 40 degrees, I do love to ski, snow shoe and ice skate. The difference with these activities is that I dress appropriately and don’t get cold because I’m moving. I won’t do this everyday or even every week, but it does break my sulky winter mood when I can get fresh air and a little winter sun on my face.
  9. Research races: Sometimes I just need something to work toward. My inbox started filling with announcements of races in the spring. It got me looking at what would be my first race. It also got me thinking if I could run a 10K or even a half marathon. I don’t want to “train” in the literal sense. But, as I looked at how I exercise and compare that to the training programs I could see how ready I was for these races. Turns out, that 10K isn’t going to be a big deal. That half? I just may be able to check that box this year.
  10. Talk the talk, walk the walk: The more I relate to other runners or tell my story to friends and acquaintances the more it drives my accountability to keep it up. It would be more than horrifying to have done all this work to only turn back into the chubby pumpkin by the spring.  Talking and sharing makes me more accountable.
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