My kids started taking swimming lessons at our local YMCA at the beginning of the year. The first week of lessons we arrived really early to find the parking lot packed full of cars. It was cold and snowy and 8:00 am on a Saturday morning. This was our first trip to the YMCA so we assumed there must be a lot of dedicated members who come here to workout!
And then, when we arrived for lessons the next week things became a little more clear. It is not that the YMCA has an abnormal amount of dedicated Saturday morning, winter gym-goers. What was actually happening was just what you find at all gyms in early January.
So many people start the New Year with goals and resolutions and intentions to start working out, to manage their weight, and to finally overcome their health challenges. And as we all know, all of these good intentions and lovely resolutions only last a couple weeks, at most a couple months.
For a variety of reasons, it can be really hard to keep up with our good intentions and workout consistently in the wintertime. Life happens, cold weather sucks, and it’s so much easier just to snuggle up in bed with Netflix or a book or just a little extra sleep. But, while rest is important, humans are not designed to hibernate all winter. The healthiest thing we can do for ourselves is to keep on moving and exercising all year round. Here are four tips to help you stay motivated to workout during the winter.
1. Have a Good Reason.
Let me get on my little soapbox here. If you’ve been a reader for a while you might already know what I’m about to say.
Weight loss is a terrible motivator and not a wise goal to use in order to convince yourself to go to the gym. Think about it, when you point out all your flaws and remind yourself of how far you have to go, how does that make you feel? Frustrated, depressed, self-loathing, unmotivated, annoyed, anxious, and more.
Your weight, your BMI, the number of inches on any part of your body, and your clothing size are all terrible indicators of health. And when we focus only on improving ourselves in those areas we miss out on so many positive ways that our body can tell us we are moving toward health.
When we define our health solely by the number on a scale it can begin to define our worth, our value, our self-esteem, and our identity. You are not your weight. You are not only as valuable as the number on your pants says. You are you, fully and completely you. And the number one step to being healthy is to love yourself, just as you are.
Yes, you can desire to improve and work to make yourself better, but you improve yourself because you love yourself and want the best for yourself, not because you hate yourself and are ashamed of all your shortcomings. See the difference?
If weight or inches lost is your goal, you are destined to fail. Because you’ll have an incredible week of workouts. You’ll feel amazing and alive and energetic, you’ll sleep better, be stronger and happier, and then you step on the scale and low and behold, you’ve gained 1.5 pounds. Suddenly all of your happy thoughts desert you and you get angry, frustrated, confused, and go find a pint of ice cream. Am I right?
So stop worrying and focusing on your weight and instead focus on being the healthiest, best version of yourself that you can become. I promise you, your weight will change and you won’t feel so stressed about.
What is a good reason to workout then? Here are a few good reasons you might want to try:
- to feel happier
- to combat depression or anxiety
- to gain energy
- to sleep better
- to get stronger
- to build confidence
- to strengthen immunity
- to improve your moods
- to get more flexible
- to accomplish a goal (like run a 5k or lift a certain number of pounds or do a certain number of pushups)
- to develop new relationships (workout buddy)
2. Do Something Enjoyable.
Last year I read a book called Thinner Leaner Stronger. It was all about lifting heavy weights for women. I was really excited about it and how strong I was going to get. I made some big goals for the progress I wanted to make and then got to work.
Less than three weeks into January I broke my toe trying to do a pull-up. Yes, a pull-up. I realize that most people don’t use their toes to do a pull-up so this doesn’t make much sense, but alas, this is what happened.
I also quickly realized that lifting heavy was not really enjoyable to me. I really had to focus on my form to avoid injury. I was strong enough that I could lift heavy, but one wrong move could be incredibly dangerous. I asked my husband to spot me and be my “weight coach” because he loves weightlifting and knows what he’s doing.
But he’s very much a push you hard and make you cry kind of coach which is the worst thing in the world for me. He never actually made me cry, except when I broke my toe and he laughed at me, but he was a little too much and made me hate our sessions together.
What I soon realized is that heavy weightlifting is not for me. At least not for this season of life. It took me a while to admit that and be okay with it.
I also know that CrossFit is not for me, group fitness classes with fast-paced dancing are not for me, Spartan style races with crazy obstacle courses are not for me, and team sports are not for me.
Instead, I stick with things I enjoy, like running. I don’t want to just run, so I’ve been working to find other activities that are just as enjoyable to me. I love yoga. I love bodyweight exercises for strength training (pushups and lunges). I somewhat enjoy slower paces group fitness classes like Pilates and Barre. I like bike riding and swimming, though maybe not competitively. I love walking and hiking outside in beautiful places.
So what do you enjoy? If you have no clue then start experimenting. Try everything, give it all a fair shot and see what feels good to you. We stick with things we enjoy. And you are absolutely allowed to and supposed to enjoy your workouts. So if you hate it, find something else to do.
3. Be Flexible So You Don’t Have Excuses.
The kids are sick so I can’t go to the gym.
There’s too much snow outside so I can’t go for my run.
It’s too dark when I get home so I can’t take the dog for a walk.
I can’t afford the classes at the gym, so I guess I’ll have to wait until next payday.
All of these are ridiculous excuses people give for not working out. But do you know what you need to workout? You, yourself, and your own body. That is it. You don’t need money, you don’t need lovely weather, you don’t need daylight, you don’t need a gym membership, you don’t need fancy equipment. You just have to move the body you carry around with you all day long.
Isn’t it about time you grew some big girl panties and stopped making excuses all the time? If you want to workout, you just have to workout.
If you truly can’t get to the gym for your scheduled class or workout, then find something to do at home. If you have to work late and will miss your chance to exercise before the kids get home from daycare, let the kids join you in a living room exercise session.
There is always something you can do, so figure it out and get it done.
4. Do It Anyways.
“If I could just get motivated”.
“If only I could be as motivated as her.”
“I’ll be more motivated when…”
We’re always talking about finding or getting motivation. But the reality is that motivation will only come from action.
Did you catch that? There is not some magical well of motivation you’re ever going to find. It’s not about reading the right book or chanting the best motivational quote. You find your motivation by doing.
Put on your shoes and step out the door. Put one foot in front of the other and I’m gonna betcha you’ll start to feel a little more motivated the more you go.
The more you exercise, the better you feel, the better you feel, the more you want to exercise.
So really, all it takes to get motivated to workout during the winter is simply to get your butt up and start moving.
Today’s Action Step
Go workout! Let’s not make this complicated. Decide what you want to do and try it (the resources below might help you find something to do).
Aaptiv – this is an app you can download on your phone. You can get a 30-day trial membership to try it out. They have hundreds of audio workouts. Workouts for running outside, treadmill, elliptical, cycling, rowing, stairclimber, strength training, stretching, weight loss, abs, yoga, walking, and more. The trainers will keep you motivated and help you to keep pushing yourself during your workouts as they guide you through the moves. I really love Aaptiv and have lots of friends who use it too.
FitnessBlender.com – this website has tons of free video workouts you can do from the comfort of your own home.
Sworkit – I’ve used the Sworkit app for years when I only have a few minutes to get a workout in. They offer a variety of exercise programs and workouts with visual aids (to help you with form and positions). I love that I can set it for 5 minutes of lower body strength and it will walk me through a random 5 minute lower body strength session that always pushes me to try harder.
My Experience Running Every Day for a Year – my streak hits 1,000 days next month!