How to stay motivated during winters?
Winters are here and, ’tis the season when everyone loves to snuggle inside their blanket and eat high calorie “comfort” foods. As the days get shorter, darker and colder, we tend to lose our excitement to workout. Thus starts a vicious cycle of body aches and weight gain. In this article, I will share some practical tips on how to stay motivated during winters.
YOU BURN MORE CALORIES AT REST DURING WINTERS
As the mercury dips below normal body temperature range, your body works harder to stay warm by generating its own heat. As a result, you end up burning slightly more calories at rest. It means that if you do not drastically increase your food intake, you are more likely to lose fat during winters. Being aware of these changes in your body and the environment will help you devise the right strategy to continue achieving your fitness goals. Here are five tips to motivate yourself during winters:
#1 BE FLEXIBLE WITH YOUR EXERCISE SCHEDULE
I can’t wake up early to workout!
Work gets too tiring, so I tend to skip exercise!
I can’t seem to find time for exercise!
We are often rigid with our view on what’s the right time to exercise. And if we are not able to exercise during that allocated time, we skip it altogether. There is no right time! It all depends on your schedule and preference, and it doesn’t have to be constant all year long.
As an early riser, my preference is to exercise in the morning. Being an online health coach, I have a flexible schedule. So in summers, I prefer to exercise around 8 AM after finishing a few client calls. However, during winters, I shift my exercise schedule to around 11 AM so it’s warmer and I get to soak the occasional sunshine.
One needs to experiment what works best for them and modify their exercise schedule accordingly. The best time to exercise is the time that works best for YOU.
A few years ago, when I had a regular day job, I used to wake up early to workout during summers. However, waking up early morning is hard during winters, especially when the temperature is in single digits. So, evening after office seems to be a better option for a workout. On occasional work from home days, I used to workout in noon before lunchtime.
Long story short, be open to change your workout schedule based on your environment and preferences. You don’t have to force yourself to workout at specific times if it is not feasible. Find what works best for you.
#2 REDUCE FREQUENCY AND INCREASE INTENSITY
Winter is one season when gathering the motivation to workout can be intimidating. Even if you are motivated enough, the warmup takes much longer that can increase the workout duration drastically. For this reason, I prefer strength training only twice a week. The rest of the days, are dedicated to low-intensity activities such as walking, jogging or some light stretching at home.
When it comes to strength training, less frequency and, higher intensity works better as it allows enough time for your body to recover and adapt.
Often we tend to stress about the number of times we workout in a week. Accepting that less is NOT bad will give you the peace of mind to focus on other productive activities such as reading, cooking and other hobbies which are equally essential for your wellbeing. Add low-intensity activities such as walking and light stretching to your routine to keep yourself active and prevent muscle stiffness.
Note: Higher intensity strength training does not refer to HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). It means slow, controlled resistance training in which we increase the load progressively to gain strength and stability. Bodyweight training is one form of strength training.
#3 KEEP YOUR VITAMIN D LEVELS IN CHECK
One of the most common, yet overlooked symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency is chronic tiredness and fatigue. Vitamin D plays a vital role in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus and facilitating normal immune system function. It is essential for bone health and also helps fight diseases.
There was a time when I started detesting workouts for no apparent reason. A quick visit to a General Practioner (GP) and a blood test revealed Vitamin D deficiency.
Quite often, the problem is not our “attitude” or lack of motivation, but the underlying nutritional deficiencies. Insufficient Vitamin B12 or iron consumption may also lead to fatigue and lethargy. If you have been feeling lazy or low on energy for a long time, it’s best to consult a doctor and get yourself tested.
Vitamin D is primarily synthesised in our body when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight. In winters, the sun exposure is drastically reduced as the day becomes shorter and we tend to remain snuggled indoors. Food sources such as oily fish, egg yolk, mushroom and some fortified products also provide Vitamin D. Depending on a person’s dietary preferences, consuming enough vitamin D may be difficult. In such cases, Vitamin D supplements may be a good choice.
Consuming about 1000 IU of Vitamin D per day should be enough for most individuals, but the exact requirement varies based on many factors. I usually consume 1.5 tablets of 5000 IU Vitamin D3 every week, during winters. While Vitamin D toxicity due to excess consumption is rare, it is possible. Therefore, it’s best to consult a doctor before supplementation.
#4 INCREASE YOUR “NEAT” TO BURN EXTRA CALORIES
What is “NEAT”?
NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. It is the energy expended by all the physical activities you perform outside of your planned exercise routine. NEAT includes calories that you burn while performing day to day activities such as grocery shopping, cleaning, climbing stairs, fidgeting, walking your pets etc.
A recent study suggests that NEAT can vary by as much as 2000 kcal per day when comparing two adults of similar body size, lean body mass, age and gender. Even if we consider 10% of that, it is significant especially for those looking to lose fat.
Imagine burning at least 200 extra calories per day just by making small, simple changes to your day to day activities.
Here are some practical ways to increase your NEAT:
- Take stairs to climb 2-3 floors instead of using an elevator
- Conduct walking meetings at work
- Keep a glass (instead of a bottle) to drink water. Walk to the kitchen to fill it up every hour
- Drink more water, so you have to get up often for restroom breaks
- Participate in performing household chores such as washing, cleaning, cooking etc.
- Go for leisurely walks while talking on the phone or listening to podcasts
- When working from home, take voice calls while walking whenever possible #WFH
- Walk to the grocery store instead of driving
- Change positions often and stretch while watching TV or Netflix
Working on increasing your NEAT not only helps burn extra calories but also indirectly increases your daily movement, which in turn prevents muscle stiffness and nagging joint pains, a byproduct of a sedentary lifestyle.
#5 DEVELOP A DAILY ROUTINE AND TRACK IT
We make countless decisions every day. Some studies suggest that an average adult makes about 35,000 decision per day. Developing a daily routine allows us to make fewer decisions and go into autopilot mode. It also helps us structure our day efficiently so we can achieve more within the time available.
Develop a daily routine and start tracking it. Often adherence to the agreed schedule gives us a feeling of accomplishment, which in turn motivates us to do more. It will help you to stay consistent and inspire you to keep going further.
Motivation is what gets you started, developing habits and routines is what keeps you going. When we set small goals or tasks, and accomplish them, the brain releases dopamine which makes us feel good and acts as a motivator.
Here is my typical daily routine during winters. Notice how I have put placeholders for some key activities. Rest of the time is flexible and devoted to work, meals, daily chores etc. Use this as a reference and develop your own daily routine.
- 7 AM: Wake up
- 7:30 – 8 AM: Stretching
- 8 – 9:30 AM: Work
- 9:30 – 10 AM: Breakfast
- 11 – 12:30 AM: Strength Training (twice a week, work on other days)
- 2 – 6 PM: Work
- 6:30 – 7:30 PM: Stretching/ evening walks
- 11 PM: Sleep
Notice how I have a fixed schedule to wake up and sleep. I have a stretching routine in the morning that allows me to start the day feeling relaxed and energetic. Evening walks in fresh air rejuvenates me so I can unwind during night. Develop your routine and list down the non-negotiable activities.
I track my progress, whether it’s at work or with regards to strength training, based on how consistent I am. The aim is to have about 80% adherence to the daily routine. If you can manage that, results will follow automatically and, you will feel motivated.
START YOUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS NOW
As the winter season begins, end of the year approaches. The lead up to the new year is marked by New Year’s resolutions that we make to cover up for things we did not do earlier. So during the holiday season, we have an inherent feeling of guilt for not doing what we should have started months ago and, feel anxious about starting something new in the new year.
New Year’s resolution is just another excuse to procrastinate and allow your brain to say “I will start tomorrow”. Nothing changes on 1st January except for the date and your calendars.
How about starting your New Year’s resolutions right now and getting a head start? Don’t think of them as huge, life-changing decisions. Think of them as new, small habits that will help you become a better version of what you already are. So, stop waiting for the new year, make it easier on yourself by starting now, so it feels like continuing a resolution that you have already started. Start SMALL, start NOW.
As the winter season continues, we tend to lose our motivation to workout and maintain a routine. The energy levels dip down as the days get shorter, darker and colder, and we start craving high calorie “comfort” foods. Small, simple changes can help you stay motivated during winters.
Be flexible with your exercise schedule, experiment what works best for you and develop a daily routine. Check for nutritional deficiencies and supplement as required. Start higher intensity strength training and get comfortable with doing less. Increase your daily movement and incorporate low-intensity activities such as walking and stretching to your daily routine. Do not wait for the New Year to develop new habits and start NOW.
If you wish to read about 6 lifestyle changes to sustainably lose fat and improve long term health, click here
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My recommendations for protein supplements:
Whey Protein – Option 1
Whey Protein – Option 2
Vegan Protein – Option 1
Vegan protein – Option 2
Protein for Women
Other Option – Sattu
Other supplements I recommend (Confirm with your doctor before consuming):
Multivitamins for women
Read these amazing books to learn about mindset, what motivates us and how to form good habits, and break bad ones.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha
7 Habits of highly effective people
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