It’s a great time of year when the nights start drawing in and the days get longer. This is the time to batten down the hatches, warm up yourself and snuggle up on the couch with a nice chai latté.
But while that feels great in a cosy kind of way, it’s not exactly ideal when it comes to our figures. The colder it gets, the harder it becomes to stay motivated in the gym. This is true not only because we have less incentive to look good topless now that we’re wearing three layers minimum, but also because there are fewer daylight hour to go for runs or head out to the gym. Suddenly, the thought of a crisp salad is far less appetizing and we find ourselves gravitating to pies and ales instead.
Even if you’re in warmer climates, you’re still going to be tempted by the sugary winter snacks floating around and you’re still going to find you have less energy than you do when the sun is at full power. Plus, this is when all the good TV comes on…
Why You Need to Stop Making Excuses
This is why so many of us will find ourselves adding extra layers of flab as the weather gets colder and losing all that base fitness we built up over the summer months. And while it’s easy to make excuses, your body isn’t going to care what time of year it is – and neither will your heart when it starts having to work overtime to account for the upturn in cholesterol.
What’s more, is that winter is actually the most important time to stay fit if you want to look good for summer. Why? Because it takes about 6 months to get into shape on most programs. What you do now will ultimately determine how you’re going to look when it’s time to hit the beach!
So with all that in mind, let’s take a look at how you can fend off the winter blues and stay in top shape all year-round.
1. Create A Cosy Home Gym
The colder it gets, the less likely you are to want to head outside to go to the gym. As fewer people want to walk, the roads become more crowded and in general, you’ll find you need a lot more convincing when it comes to hitting the gym.
So why not make it a bit easier on yourself by creating a home gym? A good home gym only needs a few elements and you’ll be able to train every single body part. At the same time though, you’ll be able to stay indoors with the heating on while watching your favorite show.
To make a fully functional home gym, all you really need is a set of dumbbells and/or a pull-up bar. You can train your pecs and abs with calisthenics using sit ups, push ups and countless variations, while a pull-up bar and set of weights will allow you to add curls, chin ups and rows into the mix so that you can hit your abs and biceps as well.
Buy a set of dumbbells that lets you add and remove weight plates and that way you’ll be able to change the weight for different exercises and increase the challenge as you progress. If you want to make a more fully-featured gym, then just add a rack with a few different dumbbells, a bench for performing pressing exercises and perhaps some parallel bars for more advanced body-weight moves.
2. Wake Up To A Daylight Lamp
Why do you feel less motivated in winter?
Partly, it’s due to the lack of sunlight which can lead to symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) while also upsetting your circadian rhythms (translation: body clock). To solve this dilemma, you can invest in a daylight lamp.
Essentially, a daylight lamp is a lamp that creates light with a similar wavelength to the light created by the sun. This triggers the same hormonal response in the brain as the sun, thereby causing it to release cortisol and nitric oxide.
Better yet, daylight alarms will get gradually brighter as it reaches the time you set the alarm for. This gradually stirs you from sleep in a natural manner and when you wake up, the room will already look sunny and bright. This makes a massive difference to your energy levels, allowing you to really attack the day ahead.
3. Pop Some Vitamin D
While we’re on the subject of fixing your biological rhythms, you should also consider popping some vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced in the body in response to sunlight and acts like a ‘master hormone’ to regulate the production of testosterone, melatonin and others.
As we start spending less time in the sun during winter, we start to produce less of this essential vitamin. This too can result in symptoms of low energy and insomnia, while also reducing testosterone in men leading to a lack of muscle mass and an increase in body fat. Taking a vitamin D supplement can reverse this problem and also provide numerous other benefits.
4. Take A Break
While a daylight lamp and vitamin D supplement can help to lessen the negative impacts of winter, they’re still not addressing the real cause of the problem.
So why not get some actual sun by visiting somewhere with a warmer climate? Not only can you recharge your batteries by getting some much-needed sun but taking a break during winter can also give your stress levels a chance to subside as you’re away from the desk, thereby reducing your chances of picking up a cold.
5. Break A Sweat In The Sauna
If your complaint is that winter is making it too cold to train, then you’ve got no excuse not to spend some time in a sauna. This can help you to get rid of aches and pains that might reawaken when the weather gets a little brisker and it will also help you to shed the calories by losing water weight and a little fat.
What’s more surprising though, is that spending time in the sauna also has a ton of additional performance benefits that might just help you out in the gym…
6. Heat Up With HIIT
When you’re struggling to dig deep and find the motivation to train, HIIT can offer a great solution. HIIT is ‘High–Intensity Interval Training’ and one of its big draws is the fact that it lets you burn more calories in less time when compared with traditional steady-state cardio.
HIIT workouts involve alternating between bursts of intense exertion and periods of light recovery. You might perform tuck jumps for 30 seconds and then hold the plank position for two minutes for example and then repeat. Feeling hardcore? Then try the brutal Tabata protocol for a truly intense session.
If you don’t want to go full HIIT, then you can also try using a circuit routine to keep you on your toes and challenge your whole body with each workout. Whatever the case, forget running for 60 minutes in the cold and focus on workouts that offer fast results.
7. Vitalize With Vitamins
The jury is still out on vitamin and mineral supplements but at the end of the day, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do in order to make sure you’re getting all your micronutrients come winter. If you can find time to make yourself a fruit smoothie, then that’s the ideal solution (assuming you keep the sugar down) but otherwise, you should still find you get some benefit from a good supplement.
Look for something that provides a complete range of vitamins and minerals. But in particular, vitamin C will help to boost your immune system and protect you from colds and flus so that you can stay active.
8. Be Alpha With Omega
Omega 3 has a whole range of benefits, several of which are particularly useful come winter. For starters, omega 3 can help with joint pain to remove those old sports complaints that rear their heads during this time of year. Better yet, it can also combat adrenal fatigue to keep you feeling fresh and can boost testosterone levels in men.
9. Reassess Your Morning Coffee
Is your morning coffee doing more harm than good? While you might be relying on that hot beverage to wake you up, it’s probably also causing jitters and anxiety while damaging the quality of your sleep. What’s worse is that drinks like cappuccinos contain just as many calories as a lot of chocolate bars and other snacks!
What can work much better is a green tea – and particularly something like yerba mate. Yerba mate is a green tea that combines ample amounts of caffeine with another xanthine called ‘l-theanine’. This has a calming effect and helps to take the edge off, thereby helping you to maintain a calm level of focus even when work gets hectic and the commute gets frustrating.
10. Bulk Up At Breakfast
One of the reasons we tend to overeat in winter is because our bodies need more energy when it starts getting colder. We crave sweat things because that’s what our body is telling us it wants and if you completely ignore this request, then you’ll be doing more harm than good.
So the key is to slightly increase your calories without over-indulging. More specifically, you need to ensure your body has enough energy right at the points when it needs it and this is why you should make sure to bulk up your breakfast.
If you’re currently existing on a slice of burnt toast each morning before work, then you’ll be struggling with low blood sugar by lunch and that’s when it becomes tempting to over-indulge. Instead, aim to eat something that will provide you with a steady release of energy throughout the day, such as a complex carbohydrate or healthy saturated fat. Add some protein in there for good measure and you’ll enjoy some fat burning benefits too.
A good choice would be avocado, while breakfast oats also work well. Listen to your body but don’t give in to temptation – it’s a balancing act!
With these ten tips, you should find that you can keep your energy levels high, your aches and pains at bay and your fat loss going strong. The key is not to try and ignore the change in seasons but instead to listen to your body and make small concessions so that you can maintain discipline where it counts.
Amit Raman is a Digital Marketing Manager at Medlife International Private Limited, an online pharmacy operating in India offering home delivery of authentic prescription medicines at discounted prices.