8 ways to avoid a winter workout rut
Build a summer-ready body by staying motivated through the winter months.
by Chris Giblin
EVEN FOR THE fittest people out there, training is a constant challenge, and this is the time of year when the most people just don’t have the drive to answer that challenge, opting for more sedentary lifestyles than they usually partake in.
Have a look at this list of tips to avoid a winter workout rut so you can continue to make solid progress. When the snow and ice thaw at winter’s end, you’ll be looking and feeling great.
1. Embrace the Cold Weather
One of the best way to stay in shape during the cold months is to get out there and face it like a man. Whether you enjoy downhill skiing, cross country skiing, ice skating or just bundling up and going for a run, getting outside will be invigorating and will provide a great change of pace from cooping yourself up inside all the time. David Weck, the inventor of the BOSU Balance Trainer, suggests running in the snow as an activity that will be so intense that it will wear you down quickly, give you a great workout and get you back inside before your sweat has the chance to freeze.
2. Hook Yourself Up With New Gear
On that note, you’ll want some new clothes and/or shoes to help you get outside, or into the gym, more often, says trainer Todd Durkin, founder of Fitness Quest 10 and author of The Impact! Body Plan. Clearly, this will help you look better while working out, but more importantly, it will provide you with the proper apparel to face the cold, and the monetary investment should motivate you to make your purchases worthwhile. Try to find a happy medium with your budget – don’t feel the need to spend too much but don’t automatically go for the cheapest available thermal leggings or gloves unless you can tell that they will be effective.
3. Take Things Slow and Steady
Unfortunately, this isn’t really the time of year for half-days, long weekends and vacations. If work is really bogging you down, and/or if you’re really feeling the winter blues, don’t worry about setting aside a long, continuous period of time at the end of the day for one big workout. Weck suggests that if you’re on a tight schedule, it’s better to set goals that involve an accumulation of exercising over the course of the day. “Don’t make it so that you have to do it all at once,” he says. “It can also be better for your heart rate variability, since you’re constantly going in and out of exercise and rest.”
4. Set a Big Goal
“You’re shot out of a cannon on New Year’s, then most people don’t get very far,” Weck says, particularly in reference to fitness-based resolutions. It doesn’t matter that we’ve already been in 2013 for a while – if you don’t have a set training goal, or have been slacking off with the one that you made, it’s time for a change. Whether you want to lose weight, put up better numbers or get faster, set a reasonable goal and make it as specific as possible. Try to think of a goal that involves numbers or a concrete accomplishment – like getting strong enough to do some crazy exercise that has always been a little too difficult to complete, like a pistol squat or a handstand pushup.
5. Get a Workout Wingman
“Training with a buddy is one of the best ways to increase accountability,” says Durkin. Making the commitment to train with someone, whether it’s a friend or personal trainer, often forces a different, increased level of effort in your training. If you’re exercising with someone else, that means you’ll have to keep to more of a set schedule (no more putting off the gym until it’s so late you decide to bag it), you’ll be pushing each other to achieve more and you’ll probably have a much better time getting fit than you’d have alone. If this dynamic isn’t a part of your routine already, the winter is a great time to start exercising while being a bit more social than usual.
6. Refresh Your Workout Playlists
It’s a new year and the weather sucks, so it’s time for some new music to get you going. Bear in mind that the best exercise music has been found to be between 120 and 140 beats per minute, and try to work out to some material you’re not that familiar with for a change.
7. Overhaul Your Diet
It’s a very simple tip that applies any time of year, but winter is when most people stay in, warm up and eat rich foods and drink hearty beers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but as Weck and Durkin put it (along with several other trainers), “You can’t out-train a bad diet.” Keep that in mind, and also know that the good thing about being more active is that you’ll be more conscious of what you’re putting into your body since you won’t want to undo all of that hard work.
8. Try Something Completely New
According to Durkin, there probably isn’t a better time of year to start doing some form of exercise that you’ve always avoided for one reason or another. Doing something new will force you to be fully engaged with the activity, helping you stay away from boredom that could lead you down the path of stagnation or backtracking. Whatever you haven’t tried yet but have always had some interest, whether it’s kettle bell training, yoga, CrossFit or something else, just get some good instruction and take this tough time of year and make it into a learning experience.