5 ways I stay motivated to exercise during winter

5 ways I stay motivated to exercise during winter

By Julie Harris

Cold weather doesn’t have to throw your fitness goals off track

Do you love being active but find it difficult during cold weather? You’re not alone.

Winter often disrupts motivation. Gloomy clouds, cold temperatures and the lack of daylight can negatively impact workout routines.

The key to keeping up with your physical activity levels year-round is to address potential obstacles and make small changes that keep you moving until spring arrives. Even if you live somewhere with milder temperatures, winter may bring more rain and shorter days.

There are many reasons to stay active all year and several things you can do to help you stay motivated.

Finding the right exercise partners

When it’s just you, it’s easy to convince yourself to skip your workout session. But you’ll think twice before canceling on your workout buddies. They count on you and you count on them for motivation.

Studies have shown that winter weather can cause moodiness, poor sleep and low energy. Moving your body and increasing blood flow may help address all these things. But getting motivated to do it may be difficult. Share your motivation challenges with your exercise partners. That way, you’ll have their support when it’s tough.

Find people who share similar workout goals. Last winter, I was training for a 50-mile run. I needed running partners who had the same endurance goals. We agreed on specific days of the week to run together, making it easier to stick with 5 a.m. runs when it was dark and cold.

The idea is to get motivated — not distracted — by your group. Your workout sessions can double as your social meet-up, which means you get to exercise and have quality friend time.

Whether your group is online or in-person, it’s important to feel comfortable and safe when you’re training together.

Doing things I enjoy

If you don’t like running or doing high-intensity spin classes, you won’t have consistent motivation through the colder months. Instead, choose something that brings you joy and feels good.

It’s OK to distract yourself during your workout with audiobooks, music or a movie. Entertainment can help you walk on the treadmill or relax during a living room yoga session.

If your workout makes you happy, you’ll look forward to it. It may take some time and experimenting to find what type of exercises you connect with most, but don’t give up. All types of exercise count toward healthy habits. 

Trying winter activities

Last winter, my running group ran trails after snowstorms. It was quiet, beautiful and sparked joy in all of us. Spending time outside doing fun activities can help keep you — and your family — motivated and healthy through the cold weather.

Here are some other ideas that can count toward your physical activity goals:

●Go on a scavenger hunt and look for things unique to winter

●Shovel snow for someone

●Ski or snowboard

●Hold a snow sculpture competition

●Swimming indoors or going to an indoor water park

●Find paved pathways around parks

One of the best ways to deal with winter exercise boredom is to try something new. Winter only lasts a few months. Make the most of it.

Setting realistic fitness goals and expectations

Even though exercising outside in the winter can be perfectly safe, some research says cold weather affects performance. It’s important to regulate your body’s core temperature.

Even with proper clothing, your body may have to work harder to create enough heat to keep warm. Workout clothes that insulate and wick away sweat can help maintain proper skin and muscle temperatures.

Take your time warming up. Cold muscles are at greater risk for injury, so start your workout with some dynamic stretching that loosens your joints and increases blood flow.

Be flexible with your fitness routine, especially when bad weather hits. By setting realistic expectations, you won’t get discouraged when the weather slows you down.

Fueling up with balanced meals

How does food impact your motivation? Eating foods that make you feel sluggish can weigh you down in more ways than one.

Consuming a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein two to four hours before a workout can give your body the fuel it needs during exercise. But you’ll want to give your digestive system enough time to start the process to limit any discomfort.

Remember to bring food with you if you’re going to spend more than an hour exercising outside in the cold. Your body fatigues faster without fuel, especially in cold environments. For many people, exercising in the cold isn’t as enjoyable. However, winter exercise has some unique benefits that can keep you healthier.

With proper planning and support, winter cold doesn’t have to put your fitness routines on hold. Take time to figure out what affects your motivation and look for ways to help break down those barriers. It’s easier to be motivated when you have a plan in place.

It works for me. I know it can work for you, too.