As the nights draw in, it’s easy for our good exercise intentions to collapse by the fireside. But if you’re tempted to go into winter hibernation mode, remind yourself that exercise is more – not less – important for our health than in the summer as it helps wake up sluggish systems. So here’s how to sweep aside those exercise excuses.
It’s cold outside
The first excuse that comes to lack-lustre fitness wannabes at this time of year is… the weather. The reality? A bit of fog and drizzle needn’t put you off your stride. All you need is the right kit (see below) and a bit of common sense.
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Adjust your route or timing if you need to, and embrace whatever sensory experiences stem from the changes in season. If you’re a runner or a cyclist, plan your route in well-lit areas and if icy, on well gritted paths. Ensure you only take safe and familiar routes after dark and start to see the misty mornings and changing light as a bonus of your daily workout.
I haven’t got the right kit
Leaky waterproofs, worn out running shoes or tires that slip in the mud are not exactly going to inspire you to head out of the front door in unseasonal weather.
The only person to compare yourself to is you. Everyone has their own goals and progress rate – are you faster, stronger, fitter, healthier than you were last week, or month?
Invest in the right kit for the weather – be it warm, rainproof and breathable clothing, supporting footwear or a bike that is guaranteed to cope with muddy paths. Get your kit ready the night before so there are no excuses. Knowing you’ve got all you need to stay dry and comfortable, and support your fitness goals, is guaranteed to get you off to a good start.
I’m too tired
It’s the time of year when our energy levels dip. So if you always promise yourself you’ll go for a post-work run, but end up collapsed on the sofa feeling exhausted, rethink your timing. Likewise if you end up pressing snooze more times than you end up heading out for a pre-work swim, change things around and maybe take a break mid-day. Work your workout to your advantage; an early morning burst can really wake you up for the day, whereas a lunchtime class can boost your energy levels for the rest of the afternoon.
I’m not good enough
A sure fire way to kill your enthusiasm for exercise is to compare your progress with a friend, or the person lapping you in the pool. Who cares if they can swim/run/ride a mile faster than you. The only person to compare yourself to is you. Everyone has their own goals and progress rate – are you faster, stronger, fitter, healthier than you were last week, or month? If the answer is yes then keep doing what you’re doing because you’re on the right track to fitness success. And if you miss the occasional workout – inevitable as we come up to the festive season – don’t beat yourself up. Everyone lapses sometimes – remember, it’s your overall progress that counts.
At some point in your quest to improved fitness, you may have pains and even injuries. To reduce your chance of injury, particularly in cold weather, you need a good warm-up routine – you may even find it helpful to warm up before going outside. Combining this with some post workout stretches will help minimise injuries, as will the right kit (especially trainers if you’re a runner).
Exercising purely to see the scales go down is a recipe for failure – exercise alone is not actually that effective for weight-loss.
If you do get an injury – don’t panic! There’s still plenty you can do to keep your fitness levels up. See a doctor and a physio, if necessary, and keep active in some other way. Injured your knee or ankle? Try some upper-body strength training, gentle walking, or some low impact cardio.
It’s not doing any good
Exercising purely to see the scales go down is a recipe for failure – exercise alone is not actually that effective for weight-loss. That said, exercise helps reduce stress (including our cortisol levels, which when raised can lead to weight gain around the waist, a key contributor to metabolic syndrome/type-2 diabetes). It also has benefits for our mood (endorphins released when we exercise are known as ‘happy hormones’ and as fitness fans will know, they’re rather addictive!).
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Then there’s the boost to our self-confidence, both from the achievement and seeing our body tone up – which only encourages us to look after ourselves more. All things that can help us through the winter season. When you look at exercise in this way it gives you a much more holistic view of the benefits, which should keep you motivated and the excuses at bay!
I can’t afford it
Yes, swanky gym memberships, personal trainers and weekend bootcamps can be prohibitively expensive, but with a trip to your local pool costing around the same as a fast-food coffee and cake, or a couple of drinks at the pub, it’s all about prioritising what you invest your budget in.
Placing value on getting daily exercise will help you get creative as to how you get active. Instead of meeting friends for a drink, why not meet them for a walk or a cycle instead? Putting one foot in front of the other, whatever your pace, costs nothing – in fact, if you ditch the car and walk or cycle to work getting fit could even save you money. Especially good news coming up to Christmas, as it can be such an expensive time of year. You might even think about putting some health and fitness items on your Christmas list – or as the perfect gift for others.
Dr Sally Norton is a NHS weight loss consultant surgeon, a UK Health expert and founder of www.vavistalife.com.