As temperatures drop, it's tempting to fall into a kind of hibernation mode, increasing our time spent on couches snuggled under blankets and finding ourselves taking more and more long winter's naps. And while there's nothing wrong with getting cozy and relaxing, it can easily take a negative turn into a consistent pattern of lethargy and inactivity that can be hard to break.
I personally struggle with working out in the winter, finding myself making lame excuses for skipping my workout and then feeling bad about it afterward. Remember, no one ever regretted a good workout, so here are some reminders and tips to keep you happy and healthy this season.
- Immune system booster: Not only does exercise help to keep you in tip top shape, but it does the same thing with your immune system, which is often suppressed in the winter due to a lack of natural sunlight (Vitamin D) and increased exposure to cold air. Don't want to miss your next holiday party due to a nasty cold? Get in some cardio to help circulate immune cells to more easily fight off infections.
- Improve your mood: According to Georgetown University Medical School clinical psychiatry professor Dr. Norman Rosenthal, six percent of the Unites States population is diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of major depression that flares up in response to the short, dark days in winter, and can manifest in symptoms like social isolation, decreased energy, weight gain and sleeping an additional average of 2.5 hours a day. And even if you aren't clinically diagnosed with SAD, the less severe "winter blues" symptoms are still just as real and can take a toll on your emotional wellbeing. Rosenthal noted that 30 to 60 minutes of daily exercise can help to reduce these symptoms, largely due to stimulated brain production of the "happy" chemical serotonin.
- Cold-weather cuisine: Savory stews, meats, pies, cakes and cocktails typically emerge on the menu during the holiday season, and while it's important to not restrict yourself from, say, Grandma's homemade apple pie, a lack of exercise makes it much easier to gain weight from all of the hearty or sugary treats. Try meal prepping to avoid the temptation.
So, even with these benefits in mind, you still may found yourself saying things like, "It's too cold for a run" or "I don't want to drive to the gym in the snow." The solution is simple: work out at home!
While some may feel they are limited by space in their homes, the reality is you can still get in a killer workout, even in a tiny apartment––you just need to have the motivation. You can always do body-weight workouts, High Intensity Interval Training or PiYo, and hand weights and kettlebells take up no more room than a blender.
And for those of you looking for an extra level of accountability, I'd say to seriously consider investing in home gym equipment. I know there's always stories about people buying treadmills or bench press sets and then watching it collect dust, but that's sadly because they haven't bought the right equipment or chose to stop prioritizing their fitness, plain and simple. At the end of the day, it's up to you to decide what your health is worth, and not just in a financial context.
You deserve something that will make you feel good, inside and out––why not something you can use for the rest of your life? Quality fitness equipment is an investment that will last many years.
Investing in something like a high-quality treadmill, rower, bike or even a home gym is a purchase that you or anyone in your family can use, and because it's in your own home, you can multitask. Instead of Netflix and chill, Netflix and run a few miles! You can now binge watch your favorite shows without feeling lazy, because you're up and moving.
Another benefit of working out at home is that it lets you focus solely on YOU, not what the person next to you is lifting. I find that when I just strive to beat myself, instead of comparing myself to a random stranger, I tend to get much better results and feel more satisfied with the overall work out. And even for those with kids and pets, you can still keep an eye on them while you do your thing––just remember, that time on your machine is ultimately your time, so don't let yourself be too stressed with what Charlie or Sparky is up to.
There are plenty of options to choose from when picking out equipment, so I also recommend talking to a professional that can guide you in the right direction based on your budget and unique fitness goals.
And on those chilly days when you feel too cold and tired to do anything, just remember how good––and warm––you felt after your last sweat sesh, throw on your favorite workout gear, and you'll keep that summer bod and internal glow all winter long.