It's cold and wet outside, you're all rugged up on the couch, and the last thing you want to do is step outside and get blasted by the winter chill as you're trying to work up a sweat. But as much as we want to wait until Spring comes before getting back into shape, it's important to keep in shape during winter so you can stay on top of your physical and mental health.
With that in mind, we're here to give you some winter motivation with tips on how to exercise during the colder months. Just because bears go into hibernation each winter doesn't mean your fitness and exercise routine needs to follow suit.
Layer up properly
Since it's cold outside, the logical thing to do is get as many layers on you as possible so that you're warm. Even though layering up is definitely a must, it actually won't prevent you from getting sick. But there are ways you can try to keep the cold out and stay warm while you workout.
Getting wet is the quickest way to lose body heat and since there will be sweat involved, the idea here is to dress 'dry' rather than just 'warm'. Skip any cotton activewear - that stuff soaks up sweat and moisture and holds it in there for ages - and go for synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon instead, as these materials are designed to dry quickly. Make sure to also protect your extremities, like your fingers, nose, ears, and toes as they're particularly susceptible to the cold.
And don't forget to protect your skin. Aside from being cold, winter air is dry and your skin will feel it, so make sure to drink plenty of water and use lotion if needed. As well as keeping warm on the outside, it's important to monitor your own reaction to the cold. If your body begins to uncontrollably shiver or shake then that is your body's way of telling you that you need to stop what you're doing and to get warm (gradually) by seeking shelter and warmth. Make sure you listen to those warning signs.
Find a reason to exercise beyond "I want to look good"
It's fair to say that looking good is a top priority when it comes to exercise for a lot of people. While that may work in the short term, a more sustainable form of motivation is needed for the long run. Find out a good reason to keep exercising beyond the external, whether it's something like enjoyment from playing sport, challenging yourself, pushing your limits, valuing the mental and physical health benefits, or finding joy in social aspects of being physically active. Everyone has a different reason or motivation to exercise so try and find one that works for you!
Remember physical activity doesn’t always have to be intense exercise. Getting outside for a walk before or after work (not just on your daily commute) can impact your mind, body and soul whilst also giving a sense of achievement that you've done something good for yourself.
Get your friends involved
While having a gym membership may compel you to go work out, having friends exercising alongside you or joining a team sport with you is a great motivator and fantastic way to hold yourself accountable to your winter exercise routine. Plus the social aspect of it keeps it from feeling mundane so you'll be more inclined to get a sweat on regardless of the weather. If you don't have willing friends that want to join you, you can always sign up to Facebook groups or local classes, there are plenty of them out there.
No one wants to be subjected to the chilly winds blowing outside, so the obvious solution is to simply avoid it and workout inside instead. Working out at home is a valid option these days thanks to a plethora of online tutorials, YouTube videos, podcasts, apps, and subscription services.
If home workouts aren't your thing, then 24/7 gyms and indoor heated pools are your best friend. You can rock up anytime you want, get your blood pumping and body temperature up, and avoid the cold weather altogether.
Preventing a muscle injury
In the winter months our bodies can become more susceptible to injury. This is because when it's cold our body will do whatever it takes to make sure our core body temperature is regulated. This will include limiting blood supply to limb muscles, in turn this can make our arms and legs become more prone to injury.
There are some simple ways to help prevent this though, warming up our body not just externally but by prioritising stretching prior to commencing any exercise and “cool down” stretching when finishing the workout. Even if you don’t feel “cold” your muscle elasticity will react slower causing you to become more at risk of injuring yourself. Taking magnesium supplements can also help relax your muscles and prevent cramping or injury. Magnesium helps break down the lactic acid which can build up after a workout. People with diabetes, intestinal disease, heart disease or kidney disease should speak to their health care provider before commencing any magnesium supplement.
In the event you do injure yourself, it’s important to manage the injury right away by following the ‘RICE’ method - which stands for ‘rest, ice, compression, elevation’. This means resting and avoid moving too much, applying an ice pack/bag of frozen veggies to the injury for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, wrapping an elastic bandage around the injury to minimise swelling and immobilise the injured area, and elevating the injury to minimise swelling by draining fluid away from the area.
During the first few days after the injury, it’s important to keep using the ‘RICE’ method. If you have any questions or concerns about your injury, Sonder is here to help you at any time. Our 24/7 team of trained nurses can help provide you with support and can refer you to emergency services or a physiotherapist if you need it.
Setting yourself a goal
Another great way to get yourself motivated and stay fit during winter is to set yourself a goal. You may want to take part in a fun run, triathlon, a swim or tackle a full marathon. Every professional athlete sets themselves goals to achieve and you can too regardless of where you're at on your fitness journey. It can help if you focus on what your aim is and the purpose of why you're doing it.
One way to approach it is to have short term and long term goals. For example, a short term goal could be that in October you'll be able to walk 10,000 steps each day for seven days while the long term goal might be that by the end of this year you'll feel healthy, happier and more confident. The SMART framework can be a great guide to get you started and maintain your fitness goals this winter. Your goals should be realistic and achievable to you and your own personal level of fitness.
If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.
Information sourced from: ABC, The Heart Foundation, and Everyday Health.
Image credit: Rocky Balboa
All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.