Living abroad in my teens made me very aware of the large number of stereotypes that exist about us Canadians. Everything from jeans and plaid shirts being our national uniform (kinda true depending on what province you’re in), to beavers being common household pets (false – at least not for any Canadians that I know). Although there were many ridiculous stereotypes like ‘Canadians ride polar bears to work’ that were false, one that was very true is that we like to talk a lot about the weather.
Such talk about Mother Nature’s curse on our country in the winter is especially common at this time of year. Discussions and complaints about the snow, the ice, the slush, and the windchill are everywhere, whether it’s in the office, on the radio, or at Starbucks (or Tim Hortons, if you really want to be Canadian). While the frigid cold makes it a much bigger effort to do many things, one of the greatest challenges for many people is maintaining the desire and motivation to incorporate fitness into daily activities. We’re naturally more active in the summer because it’s pleasant to be outside, more outdoor events and social gatherings take place, and there are more hours of daylight (which also affects our energy levels).
Does that mean we have to go into hibernation for 5+ months while we wait for the snow to melt? Nope! Sure it can be difficult to wake up and get your early-AM workout in when it’s still dark outside, but I have a couple of tricks that help to keep me excited about fitness in the dead of winter. These are primarily geared towards people who get their daily dose of fitness in the mornings, but many apply to everyone.
Challenge yourself to something completely new.
Are you the type that does the same (or very similar) workout day in, and day out? If you were to compare your workout journal this month to a page from this time last year, would there be many differences? If not, it might be time to shake things up. Why not try Crossfit, hot yoga, pilates, swimming, a new specialized fitness studio in your area, or – I can’t say I’m a fan of it, but many are – Zumba? By introducing a new activity to your fitness regime, you’ll not only challenge your body in new ways (aka get better results and bust through your plateaus) but it’ll also strengthen your weaknesses and make getting up for workouts something to look forward to.
Keep your goals and your reasons for wanting to work out visible.
It’s easy to trade a morning workout for an extra hour of sleep, but remembering your motives for wanting to boost your fitness level, lose weight, become a runner, lift heavier etc can help to keep you focused. That is, however, assuming that those motives were truly your own to begin with. Having one of these goals because you think it will make someone else happy probably won’t cut it in the long run. So next time you’re making that decision about whether you should stay in bed or get your muscles a-movin’, remember why you started in the first place. Are you doing it to live longer, to reverse a known health condition, to be able to feel confident and strong? If you’re a highly visual person like me, put some pictures up in your room to remind you – or make a vision board!
Plan it out.
There are a number of things you might be in the habit of doing before bed. For me, it’s writing a quick to-do list of anything that’s still on my mind at the end of the day, making sure my lunch is packed for work, setting out my gym clothes, washing my face, brushing my teeth, and (as ashamed as I am to admit it) scrolling through my Instagram feed. If you find it hard to get up and get your workout done in the morning, try planning out exactly what you’re going to do. This eliminates decisions that might otherwise overwhelm you the next morning (even if just a little bit), making it easier to get up and get ‘er done!
Pick a race, competition, contest or other event to work towards.
I find that I get into training ruts when I’m not training for something. Last year I had 2 main races – the Goodlife Toronto Half Marathon in May, and the Lululemon SeaWheeze in August. They were spaced far enough apart that I could give my body adequate time to rest in between and still feel prepared on race day, yet close enough that neither felt too far away. By contrast, having one race scheduled for, say September might not be as strong of a motivator at this time of year.
Set your thermostat or get a heater for your bedroom.
You may have heard that sleeping in lower-than-average room temperatures can promote a deeper sleep, but it’s certainly not fun to wake up to a freezing cold bedroom. I like to set the schedule on my thermostat to kick up the heat about 15 minutes before I get up, so that when I have to throw the blankets off, I’m not shivering as I get ready to go. If this isn’t an option, try a space heater and plug it in just before you get your gym gear on. And, if you really want to go the extra mile, get a remote car starter and heated seats! Obviously this isn’t an inexpensive or do-it-right-now option but I have to admit, it was some of the best money I’ve ever spent!
Plan for some at-home workouts (just in case you get snowed in!)
Let’s face it, sometimes Mother Nature just feels like being nasty and turns your city into a mini North Pole. If you live in southern Ontario, you probably experienced the ice storm to some extent in December. On days when your car is buried under 3 feet of snow, your car doors are frozen shut, and you can’t see the difference between people’s front lawns and the roads, it’s time for an at-home workout. If you need some ideas, you’ll find heaps in my Fit Bit Friday archives. In addition to no-equipment routines, I have the TurboFire and Insanity DVDs which I’ll do occasionally. If you’re not into workout videos, try keeping a set of dumbells, a few kettlebells, an exercise ball, or exercise bands handy for days like this. Sometimes Insanity gives me an even harder workout than my intended gym plan for the day!
Enlist a partner or group of like-minded friends.
Picture this: Your alarm goes off in the morning. The night before, you and a friend decided you’d attend a 6am spin class, and the time has come. You know you wanted to go last night, but your mind is telling you sleep sounds like a better idea. So you drift off again into a cozy slumber, and your friend brushes the snow off her car, drives to the gym, goes into the spin studio, gets set up, and saves you a bike.
Ok, now you know that little unpleasant, nagging feeling you’re experiencing right now? The guilt? Remember THAT next time you’re debating whether or not to bail. Friends don’t leave friends hanging! See if you can find a friend or someone already at your gym (or wherever your workout is) that has similar goals to your own. Even if you don’t formally agree to meet there every morning, it’s amazing how great this can work for accountability when you know there’s someone expecting to see you.
So tell me…
- What’s the hardest thing for you about getting your winter workouts in?
- Do you have any tips to add to the list?