Unfortunately for a lot of us, winter can really challenge our best exercise and healthy eating intentions! Bad weather, less sunlight, and a general feeling of listlessness can have you making like a bear and hibernating until spring! And just like the hibernating bear, you could end up gaining a whole lot of body fat, as well as derailing your health and fitness gains. Ahhh, if only we could make those small changes here and there along the way so it’s that much easier for us to redeem ourselves come Summer time!
I believe all of our achievements start with the intention and desire to change. It could start of with the desire to LOOK better - toned arms, less belly fat, etc. - which eventually will lead us to wanting to FEEL better from the inside. So for this reason, it is essential to get our mindset right first, this will then perpetuate training and good nutrition and set us up for long term success.
When it comes to using a positive mindset to continue to achieve your goals throughout winter, there are a few components that you will need - good goal setting, a motivating reason to change and some strategies in place to help you deal with the unique winter challenges. In this article I want to give you some simple, practical advice that will keep you on track this winter.
Re-evaluate your goals
Summertime goals are usually based on getting lean and toned so you look your best on the beach. This is probably the last thing on your mind when the weather is down. As winter tends to encourage eating more, why not use these extra calories to fuel new muscle growth?
This doesn’t mean you have to “bulk up” and gain lots of body fat, but winter is the perfect time for some serious strength and muscle building, which tends to require a Calorie surplus.
Set yourself some winter training-specific goals, create or sign up to a program, and then get to work. Make compound exercises your priority, train using low to moderate reps, and focus on adding weight to the bar each and every week. If you need some guidance when it comes to training programs, check out my customisable programs here. In just a couple of months, you could have a whole new, strong and muscular, body.
A lot of people suffer from mild to moderate bouts of depression during the winter months – called SAD which is short for seasonal affective disorder! Cold temperatures and less sunlight can leave you feeling blue and unmotivated.
You can conquer SAD by trying to get at least 15-30 minutes exposure to natural light per day – go for a brisk walk at lunchtime for example. Also, try to train yourself to think and act more positively. Be conscious of how you speak to yourself and nip negative self-talk in the bud! With consistent self observation, you can cultivate a can-do attitude that will be beneficial year-round!
Exercise and eating healthily are great mood enhancers so make sure that, even if you don’t feel like it, you stick to your workout and eating plans, or get yourself moving regularly at the very least.
Bad weather can often derail your workouts and, in extreme cases, even stop you from heading out to do your training session or grocery shopping. If this happens enough, you might find yourself thinking “why bother” and give in to the temptations of not exercising or eating comfort food for the duration of the colder months.
Avoid this trap by being prepared for all weather eventualities. Have a plan for when things go off track. This can be:
- Planning home workouts that you can do if you can't make it to the gym
- Stock your freezer with healthy food in case you can't make it to the grocery store.
- Shop online!
If you are serious about your health and fitness journey you also have to be mentally prepared for all winter-related logistical challenges. This will mean you have no excuses for skipping your workouts or not sticking to your planned meals!
Accept the inevitable disruptions to your schedule!
Sometimes, and despite your best-laid plans, the winter weather will upset your schedule. Life happens! And part of living a healthy, goal-oriented lifestyle is learning to adapt when things aren’t in your favor. In situations like this it’s okay to miss a workout but you should also do your best to get back on track as soon as possible, or opt for an alternative. Don’t let a single disruption justify a bout of self-sabotage or divergence from your desired path.
There is no denying that maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the winter months can be hard. However, if you want to continue making progress, you MUST to power on!
Instead of looking at the winter as a barrier to your health and fitness, look at it as an opportunity. An opportunity for growth, overcome hurdles and learn from the experience. This subtle change in mindset can really help you keep on track!