I am very much of a gym rat. Exercising is an integral part of my physically and mental wellbeing. But, having said that, the last thing I want to do during the frigid winter months is to be outside longer than I need to. Going to and from the office is brutal enough; I really don’t want to make any detours and elongate the time I’m away from my bed.
I should be used to the northeastern winters by now, since I’ve lived through it for most of my life. But, the cold really affects my motivation to do anything else but work, eat, and sleep. My workout routines inevitably falls in the winter months. I often opt to stay in and watch Netflix, rather than get myself to go to the gym or exercise classes.
However, we can all muster up the willpower to prevent ourselves to be sucked into the cycle of holiday-winter-no-exercise-eat-sweets. I personally suffer from seasonal affective disorder in the winter months, so working out definitely helps my mood (from the release of endorphins and serotonin). Plus, research has proven that exercising boosts your immune system, so you’re less likely to get the latest virus.
Especially with holiday parties coming, you’ll thank yourself for maintaining your exercise routine. I’m able to savor that cookie or glass of wine more if I feel good about my body. I’m not shaming myself or anyone for eating sweets, but I just feel like I can digest food better when I’m staying active.
Now, I know I can’t personally change your perspective on working out in the winter if you’re very steadfast on views. But, for those of you who need a little push, here are some tips for staying physically active during the cold months.
Adjust to the sunlight schedule, and exercise in the mornings.
I don’t know about you, but when it’s nightfall, I’m less likely to hit the gym. I usually work out in the evenings during the warmer months, but in the winter, I train myself to be a morning exerciser. Even if it’s still dark outside when you wake up to go to the gym, chances are that you’re going to catch the sun rise by the time you’re done exercising. If your gym has big windows, it’s delightful to watch the sunrise as you’re working out. Also, I tend to feel lethargic during the winter, especially with the heat on. But, working out in the morning gives me the boost of energy that I can use throughout the day.
Make sure to pay extra attention to your warmups and stretches.
I notice that my muscles are much more stiff in the winter than they are in the warmer months. It’s as if my body contracts to keep itself warm and conserve energy. This is why I spend more time stretching before and after my workouts. Let’s say I spend 10 minutes warming up in the summer. Well, in the winter, I may spend five to ten additional minutes loosening up my muscles. Especially if you’ve just been outside prior to entering the gym, you’d want to defrost! The last thing I want to do is to sprain something and be forced to be inactive.
Pick up a winter sport!
New York is full of opportunities for trying something new, especially winter sports. Snowboarding, ice skating, indoor swimming, winter hiking… all of these are either in the city or a bus/train ride away in upstate. Many people complain that there are limited healthy, social activities to do in the winter. But, you and your friends can make a fun excursion on the weekends by taking a day trip to snowboard or ice skate. With winter just starting, you can definitely pick one of those sports up!
Grab a workout buddy and take a fitness class.
Two winters ago, my friend and I got hooked on Bikram yoga (aka hot yoga). The idea of practicing yoga in a 105-degree room is much more appealing in the winter than in the summer. I had no idea that you could break into that much sweat working out in the winter. Bikram yoga literally feels like doing yoga in a sauna. But, if this doesn’t sound appealing to you, there are dozens of fitness classes you can try out – from cycling to barre to Pilates. I’m less likely to take an indoor fitness class during the other seasons, because the last thing I want to do is be indoors on a nice day. But, during the winter, I try out whatever new fitness class I’ve been wanting to take. Plus, having a workout buddy to attend these classes with, will make you both accountable to actually attend them!
If wintertime exercising does not appeal to you, then find other ways to stay active.
If you’ve never been an exercise person or you cannot fathom working out in the winter, then look for other ways to be active. Perhaps skip the online holiday shopping, and hit up the brick and mortar stores. This can sound silly, but in-person holiday shopping can very much turn into a workout. You’re on your feet running from store to store, often times carrying tons of bags. Don’t look at this lightly, this can very much be considered as a workout!
The winter months can also be a good time to pick up a regular volunteer gig. Most folks are fast to volunteer during the holidays, but immediately stop after New Year’s. But, the communities that need volunteers don’t stop needing them once the holidays are over. In fact, January through March are the months that volunteers are needed the most, when the temperatures keep dropping, and the days are dreary. Volunteering can definitely keep you on your feet and active all through winter and beyond. Won’t you want to help others, rather than planting yourself in front of the TV?