Winter Fitness: How to Stick to a Routine When it is Cold, Dark, and Dreary

winter fitness

Maintaining a fitness routine can be especially challenging in the winter. The days are short, the weather is cold and windy, and surprisingly not all of us have hockey rinks in our backyards. Even if you don’t have snow on the ground half the year, trying to stay in shape during the winter can be extremely frustrating. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to keep yourself motivated and on track with your workouts.   

Tim Toth, movement specialist and fitness expert for LifeSpeak Inc., shares four tips to help you stay active during the dark winter months.     

Tip 1: Carve out a time every day for exercise 

Having a regular, daily schedule is probably the easiest way to stick to an exercise routine, but having time to exercise every day is easier said than done for most of us. Finding time to exercise is the biggest challenge for most people. Interestingly, since most of us work at home these days, it can be much easier to find time for a workout. Think about how much time you are saving: there is no transit time to your gym, you don’t have to worry about forgetting your running shoes at home or finding a spot on a treadmill.  

Besides, you only need about twenty minutes to get in an excellent workout. Twenty minutes of cross-training, stationary cycling, or interval training can burn over 200 calories. Twenty minutes of yoga will make you feel refreshed and stretchy, and twenty minutes of strength-training a couple of times a week will help counteract the atrophy from all the hours of sitting we do every day.  

Most people have three opportunities during a weekday for exercise: the morning, lunch, and evening. Lunch is a great time to exercise because it gets you up from your desk and breaks up the working day. It may also be the only time you are free from family commitments. If you are working from home, you can fit a quick workout, a shower, and lunch into an hour if you’re efficient. Consider carving out specific days in your calendar when you absolutely don’t allow any lunch meetings to be scheduled. 

Whether mornings and evenings will work for you primarily depends on your habits and personality: some people hate getting up earlier than necessary, and some people love morning workouts. My advice is to not push against your personality type; it will not work for you long-term. However, if mornings are the only time you can exercise and you are not a morning person, focus on guided exercise. Following along with yoga videos or app-based circuit training will help keep your attention on the task at hand.  

Tip 2: Keep your routine simple 

Keeping your routine simple will go a long way towards ensuring you stick to it. You don’t need to do six different kinds of exercise to get results. A good program has three categories to focus on: strength, endurance, and mobility. A good body-weight resistance routine (which can include yoga or Pilates, as well) will work on strength and mobility, and you can add some endurance work on separate days. Any combination is fine. Aim to exercise at least 2 hours a week, split between 3-6 sessions. Note that the more days you exercise, the shorter you can make your sessions. 

Here are some ways you can split up exercise throughout the week: 

 3 days a week, 1-hour workouts 

  • Monday: 30 minutes strength training, 20 minutes jogging or bike, 10 minutes of stretching 
  • Wednesday: 45 minutes Power yoga, 15 minutes skipping  
  • Friday: 40 minute jog or bike, 20 minute mobility class 

4 days a week, with a weekend focus 

  • Tuesday: 20 minute body-weight circuit class 
  • Thursday: 20 minutes Vinyasa yoga 
  • Saturday: 30 minute jog or cycling, 30 minutes Hatha yoga or Pilates 
  • Sunday: 45 minute strength and mobility class 

5 days a week, with a weekend focus 

  • Monday: 20-minutes of high-intensity circuit training, 10 minutes of stretching 
  • Wednesday: 30 minutes of yoga 
  • Thursday: 30 minutes of strength training 
  • Saturday: 30 minute jog or cycling, 15 minutes of mobility work 
  • Sunday: 1 hour Hatha yoga class 

6 days a week, short workouts 

  • Monday: 20 minutes of strength training 
  • Tuesday: 20 minutes of yoga 
  • Wednesday: 20 minutes endurance/cardio 
  • Friday: 20 minutes of strength training 
  • Saturday: 20 minutes of yoga 
  • Sunday: 20 minutes endurance/cardio 

Everyone naturally gravitates toward certain types of exercise. Some of us love to lift weights, some love yoga, and others are cycling enthusiasts. It is perfectly okay to focus most of your effort on what you love to do. However, make sure that at least occasionally you mix it up a bit. You don’t want to overload your body with the same type of exercise (I’m talking to you, cyclists).   

Tip 3: Use technology to your advantage 

I often think of how much worse the pandemic’s effects would be on our lives if it would have happened 5, 10, or more years ago, without the mitigating effects of the internet. Our lives are much easier because of technologies like digital meetings. Our interconnectedness also benefits us when it comes to fitness because there is a tremendous amount of exercise content available online. In the early days of the pandemic, the free yoga videos on YouTube were a total lifesaver for me. Other than yoga, there are free classes of every length for Pilates, spinning, body-weight strength training (if you don’t have weights), calisthenics, mobility drills (Kinstretch is my favorite), guided meditation, and a million others. The best way to take advantage is to save a separate list of exercise videos, and slowly build a library. This way, if you are short on time, you can quickly scan through your list and get going. 

Another excellent way to motivate yourself through the dark winter is to use a fitness app. There are innumerable apps designed for fitness, both paid and free. They are great if you need a program with clear directions, or looking for a system that keeps you accountable. Many apps will connect to a stationary bike or trainer and give you a huge amount of useful information on your workout session. Most will allow you to set goals and track your progress towards that goal, whether it is related to your fitness, weight, or sleep quality 

Many organizations offer great digital fitness solutions such as Wellbeats Wellness, a product of LifeSpeak. Wellbeats Wellness allows you to build your own playlists and offers curated fitness programs and channels, as well as nutrition and meditation and mindfulness classes.  

Let’s also not forget another benefit of technology: you can exercise with a buddy without either of you ever leaving your home! Meet through video conferencing beforehand and do a yoga video together or do the same app-based workout and see who burns more calories! Wellbeats Wellness allows members to schedule classes and invite their friends. Studies have shown that being accountable to another person is one of the best ways to stick to a fitness plan.  

Tip 4: Adjust on the fly 

Sooner or later, everyone falls off the fitness (or nutrition, meditation, etc.) wagon. Just remember that missing a workout or two is no reason to quit. However, if you find you consistently miss workouts and aren’t enjoying your routine, maybe it is time to try something new. Sit down and try to figure out what is not working. Is it the types of exercises you’re doing? It’s completely okay to hate yoga, you know.  

Try something different and see if that makes things a bit more interesting. If you have the option, you can try an outdoor activity like winter hiking, snow-shoeing, or cross-country skiing. Going tobogganing with the kids can be a super-tough workout as well! Climbing repeatedly up that hill is highly challenging, and it is a great workout for the legs, core, and cardiovascular system. Just make sure you dress in layers and shed them as you warm up.  

Tip 5: Just keep moving! 

While it might be extra-tough to maintain a good exercise routine this winter, it is crucial for maintaining not just your physical, but also your mental strength. It’s a great way to give yourself a break, get the aches out, and feel like you are doing a real benefit for your health. Hopefully, these tips will have you feeling light and springy (get it?) when winter is over, instead of feeling like you just hibernated for 5 months.  

Looking for an effective way to help your employees keep up with their personal fitness goals? LifeSpeak Inc.’s WellBeats Wellness is on demand fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness solutions that fit into any lifestyle. Book a demo today. 

See LifeSpeak Inc. for yourself.
Request a demo and one of our specialists will be in touch.