The days are getting colder, the sky is getting darker and winter is just around the corner. We’re heading towards the season where apathy takes hold and healthy living gets lost in a blizzard of holiday food and drink.
If you’re looking for tips on how to stay in shape as the winter months take hold, then you’re on the right page. Read on!
Have you been making some hard-earned gains through the summer months? Well, just because Christmas is around the corner, followed by a few months of freezing snow that makes you want to stay at home, it doesn’t mean your physique has to suffer.
It’s easy to let yourself go a bit (or even a lot), but there are some things you can do to make sure that, when the end of February comes around, you’re not sat there cursing yourself for letting your body get so out of shape.
Think Like A Pro
Just ask any pro or semi-professional athlete and they’ll tell you that winter is when the workout really makes a difference.
And here’s why.
Like all athletes and fitness fiends, the professionals are building a foundation and you should be too.
Whether you want a killer bod to wow the crowds in the sunshine next year or you’re aiming to smash your personal best out of the park when you start competing again next year, you need to start thinking like a pro.
Don’t wait until springtime to get back in the fitness game, put in a little work now. Trust me, you’ll reap the rewards.
You don’t need to go all out crazy, like a whacked-out workout weirdo. With a few little tweaks and a little bit of staying power you can stay motivated and shake off those winter blues.
HIIT The Rowing Machine
Instead of pounding the pavements with incline sprints in the cold outdoors, you’re better off moving your workouts inside.
I’m not advocating endless sessions on the running machine. Long, slow distance work is the enemy. Not only is it inefficient, it pummels at your joints and can wreck your body. Intense cardio is far more effective and saves you a big slice of time in the process.
You need to be going the HIIT route: High Intensity Interval Training.
Going for ten one-minute bursts of effort, with a 30-second recovery period in between each effort is far more valuable than a 60-minute treadmill session.
Step away from the stationary bike and the treadmill and get on that rowing machine, it’s one of the most effective ways to do cardio. It’s a full-body, big range-of-motion movement that works you hard. Just 15 to 20 minutes of intervals on the rowing machine will torch those calories and explode your fitness levels.
If there’s one drawback to using the rowing machine it’s that poor technique can seriously limit its effectiveness. Make sure you execute the exercise with perfect form.
Tech The Halls
Need some extra motivation to keep you going through the winter months? Think tech.
Fitness trackers are a proven way to increase activity, beat the boredom and help you push through the pain. Get one of these in your Christmas stocking and take stock of your exercising. But don’t expect to just see the pounds melt off.
These gadgets can be a gimmick if you don’t set your targets and hit your targets. Another potential downside is that they don’t measure exercise intensity, only the amount of exercise.
As we’ve already established, it’s not the length of your exercise sessions that make the difference, it’s the effort that you put in while you’re exercising.
A change is better than a rest, so why not shake up that tired old playlist and get your adrenaline pumping again? Research has shown that the best exercise music is between 120 and 140 beats per minute, so listen to more Ministry of Sound and less Silent Night.
Incidental Exercise – It’s No Accident
Incidental exercise – walking to the shops, taking the stairs instead of a lift, even doing some hoovering or gardening will burn calories for you.
Consciously doing things in your everyday life that will get you exercising a little more will return benefits to you.
Equally as important, it will mean that you spend less time sitting down. Sitting down for long periods of time has been proven to significantly increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Keep moving as much as you can every day.
Immune System & Injuries
Like it or not, during the winter you’re going to be more susceptible to colds, flu and injuries.
That doesn’t matter all that much, it just means you have to warm up for a bit longer before diving into a vigorous training session. Perhaps jump rope for ten minutes before you begin. It’s a great way to get yourself a warmup.
Also make sure you’re fuelling yourself properly, so you don’t leave your body open to infection and illness.
Adding a daily dose of echinacea to your routine is worthwhile too. Echinacea has repeatedly been proven to have a positive effect on the human immune system, boosting the number of white blood cells, which fight infections, colds, flu and coughs.
Grow With The Snow
Remember how exhausting it was as a kid, trudging up the hillside, dragging your sled, all for the rush of that high-speed slide?
Embrace the cold, get out and run in the snow. Like running in sand, the increased difficulty makes for a great workout. Just be sure to keep your sessions short, wrap up warm and ditch your trainers for something with a better grip, like hiking boots.
Go for high intensity, short burst sets and with any luck you’ll be back inside before your sweat begins to freeze.
Avoid The Avoidance!
Sometimes you just can’t be bothered to go to the gym, put in the workout DVD or exercise in the park. This can lead to a longer-term inertia and it’s more likely to pounce on you in the winter months. Don’t do it once and you’re going to find it easier not to do it the next time.
If you don’t feel like doing it, then the way to do it anyway is to create a pathway to tilt your body into it.
Rather than thinking “I’ve got that 60 minute session to do”, break it down, just think about the next step.
Live in the moment.
If you’re going to exercise at the gym, just do it one step at a time:
Pack your gym bag
Drive to the gym
Go inside the gym
…once you’re actually at the gym, things will get easier…
Get yourself changed
Start your warm up and stretch
Do your favourite exercise
When you’ve got this far you should be able to get through and hammer it. Stay in the moment.
The Fine Tuned Attitude To Food
Over the winter, you’re determined to be strict and stay completely healthy, then you take a few bites of food you normally avoid…
This can feel like failure.
You start to think you’ve already lost the battle, so your will power collapses and you decide that you may as well just keep on chowing down, as all is already lost.
Ironically, it’s the people who are fitter and healthier that are more likely to fall into this trap. Once you get into this cycle, overeating can sometimes then trigger a period of self-punishment, with a desire to go on starvation afterwards. This can then trigger another cycle of overeating followed by under-eating and a particularly nasty journey of weight gain.
There’s a physically easy – but sometimes mentally tricky – way to dodge this one. Don’t start your Christmas by steering away from everything that’s bad for you. Allow yourself some foodie pleasures that you would normally avoid.
Pick your food battles and don’t be hijacked by the all-or-nothing mindset. Recognise it and avoid the thought stampede.
You. Can. Do. It.
The Holiday Alcohol Hazard
A lot of us, me included, have more to drink around Christmas. With the late-night parties, social gatherings and nights around the fire with friends and family the alcohol can start to flow fast. There’s a good chance that you’ll be drinking things that are a lot richer in calories too.
Many traditional Christmas drinks can be high in calories. If you have more than 1 or 2, it could be the equivalent of eating an entire meal.
- A single Pina Colada can contain 650 calories, equivalent to eating a medium-sized pizza.
- A glass of Advocaat (eggnog) with lemonade can rack up 400 calories.
- A White Russian (kahlua, vodka and cream) can hit your for 500 calories.
Those holiday drinks can be deceptively rich!
Alcohol can also inhibit your ability to remain focused on watching your food intake.
It’s Christmas, so you don’t really want to cut out your drinking. Drink a little more if you want to, but keep those sugar-filled drinks to a minimum.
A shot of whisky, vodka or gin is around 50 calories. Add a diet mixer and you’re on to a good thing.
Champagne will also only hit you for around 95 calories, whereas if you go for a glass of prosecco instead you’re down to 80 calories.
So, that means just a single Pina Colada is the equivalent of 8 glasses of prosecco!!
If All Else Fails, Quit!
Remember, above all, it’s all about the long haul. You want to maintain your fitness regimen across the years, rather than losing enthusiasm and crashing out never to train again. That’s something that happened to me.
I trained too hard for years and didn’t give myself any time off. My training partner and I even went out looking for a gym that was open on Christmas Eve, because it fell on a training day. This happened a lot. And I burned away my enthusiasm. It took me years to come back to it.
To get results, give yourself some time off. Aim to workout consistently for ten months of the year and give yourself the other two months off. Not all in one go, spread it out across the year in perhaps 2-week chunks.
When you accept that fitness isn’t all-or-nothing, you’re more likely to stick with it for life. Don’t throw it all away in the winter months, but make sure you don’t grind yourself into the ground either.
Did You Find This Post Useful?
Have you made it through the winter months with your abs intact? Let me know how you got on, I’d love to hear from you.