Winter means slippers, grey marl blankets, stacks of books, low lighting and 5 year old flannel pjs; all of these lovely things equate to one motivation: hibernation. There is nowhere I’d rather be than snuggled up at home, hopefully in the danish way, perhaps you aren’t familiar or maybe you are, either way I’m fascinated with hygge. A word simply translated to ‘cosiness’ and yet it’s danish cultural definition extends far deeper. More on that another day, what I’m trying to say is that I’ve been so busy trying to cultivate my own ‘hygge’ that the gym has been a struggle. Tight lycra versus a cashmere blanket? We all know which is more delicious. As for the shorter days? By nightfall I’m exhausted which means setting off for my 7pm gym session feels more like midnight. Winter basically makes fitness harder and don’t even get me started on the perils of the soon-to-be Christmas season, the one time of the year we are permitted to eat food with the same zealous excess as drug addicts. So yes, motivation drops with the temperature. So I thought I’d share some recent tips and tomfoolery I’ve been pushing into practice to ensure I make it to the gym. I hope they inspire in some way, after all, helping you along your own fitness journey is ultimately what I set out to do in these posts.
1. the 15 minute mind trick
The first 15 minutes of a work out are the most challenging, after that I actually begin to enjoy whatever exercise I am doing. And yet, so often the prospect of an entire hour of treadmill or weights feels too long and absolutely impossible. I deceive myself by saying I’ll only go for 15, a quick 15 minute blast seems so much more achievable than my whole work-out. Once I get through that first hard push, the rest flies by. In all the times I’ve tricked myself like this, I have never once actually left the gym after 15 minutes. Simply showing up is all it takes.
2. less motivation, bigger satisfaction
Half an hour before the gym, I embark on a wave of excuses, exaggerated to a telenovela level. When the clock strikes 7 pm, I am one excuse away from faking a fainting episode or throwing my hand atop my forehead in a very ‘woe is me’ way. It’s ridiculous, but then again, push ups and sprint training are not exactly what I live for and yet I spend most of the little free time I have doing these very things, it can be hard to stay inspired. I truly find that the less I feel like the gym, the better I feel after going. When I’m most lethargic is when I need most to get moving. I strut out of the gym with a new and improved personality; usually half expecting a public round of applause because on the way home I’ve convinced myself I am indeed a very powerful superhero.
3. a higher intensity
I’ve really minimized the length of my work-outs over the last year and a half. Previously, I’d run for as long as 90 minutes, clocking expansive kilometers. I really believe these longer, slower work-outs are harder to maintain. They get boring and being the busy humans we are, there simply isn’t the time. You must prioritize exercise as a habit and not a hobby, in the same way we might buy electric toothbrushes for brushing efficiency, the same must be mirrored in our workouts. I go to the gym 5 or 6 days a week for an hour that speeds by once I get started, by 8 10 pm, I’m out of there, ready for dinner. Furthermore, these higher intensity workouts are more invigorating, more feasible and more rewarding. The results in my physique and energy have increased dramatically since I started HIT (high intensity training). Besides which sounds more welcoming, a 25 minute high speed run or a 90 minute slower jog? Ugh, I’d rather sprint and get it over with, my muscles are bigger for it too.
4. take extra care
In the winter you need a little more of everything: extra sleep, extra coffee, I have countlessly recommended Forza’s green coffee pills. I even seem to need more calories in the winter. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with a meal supplement an hour or so before the gym. My work schedule means the only time I can commit to the gym is 7 pm, hours and hours after lunch and too close to dinner, eating anything substantial prior to a intensive workout is never a good idea. So, often I find myself headed to the gym, hungry. This can take a toll on my energy and performance. I decided to give Cute Nutrition a shot, it’s only been a few weeks so I can’t give a true recommendation just yet, but my energy levels during my work-out are notably higher. Regardless, with the colder weather we need more of just about everything, make sure you keep yourself fed, hydrated, rested (and caffeinated); the accumulation of all these will propel you into your lycra and off to the gym.
5. be a once weekly cheater
If you don’t indulge once a week, you won’t be able to sustain your good habits. You must eat whatever you like and sleep for as many hours as you’d like without feeling guilty, once a week. I dedicate Sunday to this, I’ll eat bread and cake or both, take 2 naps and read the rest of the day away. Consistent restrictions are not healthy over the long term, the gym and clean eating are habits to enhance your life. You must reward yourself with the laziness you fought all week long. Indulgences are necessary, be so good that you can justify being very bad every so often. It is called balance and believe it or not, it’s absolutely necessary and incredibly beneficial.