When the temperature drops and the evenings start to draw in it can be hard to maintain motivation to workout. Getting cosy on the sofa can seem like a much more inviting prospect than going out for a run on a dark and chilly night. But it’s just as important – if not more so – to keep up our fitness routines during the colder months. The shortage of daylight can lead to low mood so working up a sweat and getting those endorphins pumping is the perfect antidote. Getting outside on a crisp, sunny day will bring the added benefit of boosting vitamin D levels too.
I actually prefer working out during the colder months, particularly at this time of year when the temperature is just right. Autumn is my Goldilocks season: not too hot, not too cold. I love running in the fresh, crisp air – it’s so much more pleasant than the humidity of Summer (and trying not swallow flies, yuk!). But when Winter really starts to bite it can be a real effort to swap snuggly sweaters for workout clothes, especially when it’s raining. Add to that all the festivities around Christmas and New Year, and the fitness routine can easily go to pot. Hopefully my tips for keeping fit in Winter will help you avoid the usual seasonal pitfalls and keep your fitness on track.
Running is a great way to get fit, plus, it’s free, you can do it almost anywhere and you don’t need much in the way of kit. Four of the six marathons I’ve run have been in the Spring, which required logging up the miles over Winter. I’m not going to lie – I’ve bailed on many a planned long run when it’s been raining and blowing a gale. Having the appropriate kit can make a world of difference though. Fabric that wicks the sweat away from the skin is essential; it prevents chafing, and ensures you don’t get cold from having wet clothes next to the skin. Wearing a long-sleeved base layer under a short-sleeved top (preferably high vis) keeps the core warm without adding bulk. A baseball cap will help prevent hair from getting wet and keep the rain off your face. (Don’t forget sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy). Hands can get really cold so a pair of gloves is essential for very low temperatures. And don’t forget a waterproof armband or bumbag for your phone/iPod…I can’t exercise without music!
If running is not your thing, consider getting outside for a walk, or maybe try hiking. It’s easy to involve other family members so that helps with motivation. Start small by taking a brisk walk around the local park; if you have a nature reserve or forest nearby, even better. Autumn is a great time of year to get outside with the kids, picking blackberries and collecting conkers and pine cones. To make it more challenging, choose a route with inclines and up the pace.
If you decide to get off the beaten track and go for hike, it goes without saying that you’ll need appropriate clothing and footwear. The weather in the UK is notoriously unpredictable, particularly at higher altitudes, so you need to be prepared accordingly. A waterproof jacket that’s breathable is a must-have, as is a mid layer (such as a fleece) for insulation, plus a base layer to wick moisture away from the skin. Trainers won’t be sturdy enough for rugged terrain, so invest in some good quality hiking boots and socks that prevent blisters. And of course you’ll need a decent-sized backpack for food, drink and other essentials. Walking poles are an option if the ground is particularly rough. If you decide to go it solo make sure you tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return…safety first!
A Winter break on the slopes is the highlight of the year for some of my friends. I have to admit that I’ve never tried skiing but I’m told it’s addictive, not to mention great exercise. As it’s so demanding on the thigh muscles, building up your strength will ensure you’re not walking like John Wayne on the second day! Top tip from my husband is to book lessons, especially if you’re travelling with people who have previous experience. Either take lessons on a dry ski slope in the run up to your trip or pre-book lessons at the resort for the start of your holiday. Skiing holidays can be expensive, but once you’ve bought all the necessary ski wear it should last for years. You can hire skis and poles at the resort until you feel ready to invest in your own. Don’t forget specialist ski insurance!
If you really can’t face exercising outside there’s always YouTube workouts or DVDs. Fitness trends come and go, just as with anything else, but I’ve long been a fan of Taebo and still regularly do the workouts. But you can find anything from Pilates to HIIT workouts online. I gave up my gym membership when we relocated five years ago, and as I had to take a nine-month career break I couldn’t afford to join a new one, so I had to be inventive and work out at home. Even when I returned to work I was never really bothered about joining a gym, although staying at a hotel with a gym is always a treat!
I do have a treadmill at home, which I use for short runs. I also have free weights which I use for a body pump style resistance workout. Home exercise equipment is relatively cheap and doesn’t have to take up a lot of space; you can use resistance bands, kettlebells or dumbells for a challenging workout. I take a resistance band on holiday with me as they take up next to no room. And don’t forget the good old fashioned exercises that use your own body weight: press ups, tricep dips, squats, lunges, ab crunches and the plank are some of my favourites! OK, well maybe not the plank 😉
Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with Simply Hike. All words and opinions are my own.