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Why exercise motivation dwindles in the winter
If you feel like there’s a direct correlation between how cold it is outside and your plummeting exercise motivation, you’re hardly alone. “It is super common to let an exercise routine slip in the winter,” says Bianca Vesco, a Nashville-based certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. If you live somewhere that’s cold, your instinct is probably to hunker down and cozy up under a weighted blanket and nap, not squeeze into spandex and expend energy.
It also doesn’t help that people tend to wear bigger, more layered clothing in the winter, Vesco says. “I find myself less concerned about my workouts and what I’m eating when I’m not in a bathing suit or tighter summer clothes because I’m less focused about looking at my body.”
Chelsy Pillsbury, certified trainer and founder of Train With Chelsy, puts it simply: “It’s chilly, dark, and easier to stay home.” If you typically exercise outside or in a gym, it can be easy to find yourself skipping your workouts more often. This year adds another complicated layer since many people are still not going to gyms and have relied on exercising outdoors all summer and fall in order to avoid Covid-19 concerns. When the temperatures drop outside, what do you do? Do you make the extra effort to devise a new strategy for indoor workouts, or do you just throw in the towel?
How to shift from outdoor to indoor workouts
Finding a way to shift from outdoor to indoor workouts at home—and getting excited about it—is, indeed, possible. It just requires a little strategizing. One of the first barriers to tackle is a location. “The hardest part about adapting workouts for the winter is finding your space,” Vesco says. “A space big enough for you to reach out all of your limbs, with minimal distraction, and without creating enemies out of your neighbors below.”
Next, plan ahead. “Laying out gym clothes and having a plan takes out the noise when it comes to getting ready for a workout,” Pillsbury says. “It eliminates some of the steps we use when we negotiate with ourselves about why we should or should not do something. If your outfit is laid out, your snack is prepped, and your workout is planned, then all you really need to do is arrive.” Even if that means arriving in your designated workout space in another room of your house, having everything in place is a small thing that can make a huge difference.
“The next tip is to stretch and warm up longer than usual,” Pillsbury says. She suggests starting any workout with five minutes of light cardio or some dynamic stretching to warm up your muscles and get both your body and brain ready for movement. You’ll probably find that once you’ve warmed up, you’ll feel infinitely more motivated to keep going. “Movement generates movement, stillness generates stillness,” Pillsbury says.
Tips to reignite your exercise motivation
“I wish I had a magic answer for [how to motivate], but my biggest takeaways are, any movement is better than none, and find a community or a buddy,” Vesco suggests. “We’re all missing the atmosphere and camaraderie that comes with group fitness and going to a gym. But we can do our best to bring that feeling home by taking a group class online with some friends or family members.”
Even trainers like Vesco get into a fitness rut sometimes, and she says that for her, having an accountability buddy, or swole-mate, and taking online streaming workouts from her favorite trainers are always a huge help. (Here’s what you need to know about the Kira Stokes fitness app.)
Pillsbury also suggests focusing on how you’re going to feel after your workout. “A simple shift in your thought process can fully transform everything.” Think about being in your fitness gear, looking strong, and how empowered you’ll feel afterward, Pillsbury says. “Fantasize about your ‘workout high’ that allows you to be more social, productive, and happy afterward. Remember how you’ve never regretted a workout and how it will keep you warm during and long after you’ve finished.” Simply reframing a workout from a total inconvenience to something that will make you feel amazing can help spark motivation and get you into a more consistent routine.
Finally, having the right gear can be very helpful. You don’t need a lot to get a good workout, and Vesco notes that all you really need for an at-home workout is your body and some space. But if you’re looking for some ways to make shifting workouts indoors and into your home a little more seamless and effective, the products below can help.
Best products for indoor workouts
Looped exercise bands
Also referred to as mini bands, these are one of Pillsbury’s go-to suggestions for clients who work out at home. “Mini bands come in packs ranging from light resistance to heavy and they’re an easy way to burn out hips, booty, and shoulders. They’re lightweight and easy to pack for travel too,” she explains. These Fit Simplify bands work for stretching, strength training, physical therapy, and more.
High-quality yoga mat
$92-$105, depending on size and color
Vesco suggests splurging on a nice, thick yoga mat. “It seriously makes a huge difference when you’re moving around on it.” Not having to mess with your mat and constantly readjust it helps minimize distractions so you can focus on the workout at hand. Also, if your floors tend to feel cold in the winter, this one from Manduka can give you a much-needed layer of insulation.
If you’re looking for a unique way to get in cardio that doesn’t involve running outside in the elements, a mini trampoline (or rebounder), like this one from BCAN, is a great option. There’s also a playful aspect to it, which might be what you need to light a fire under your butt and get motivated again.
“If these are in the budget for you and you need weights at home, a single or set of adjustable dumbbells is a great one-stop-shop,” says Vesco. This particular weight from Flybird ranges from 5-25 pounds, so you don’t need a whole pile of weights to do all your workouts. “Huge space saver,” Vesco says.
One heavy kettlebell
“I always recommend a 35-45 pound kettlebell if possible,” Pillsbury says. “You can do a lot with that piece of equipment—sumo squats, goblet squats, kettlebell swings, and different kinds of pressing movements.” This RitFit kettlebell comes in various weights.
Boxing bag and gloves
Another great indoor cardio option: boxing. It’s also a really amazing way to blow off some steam—and it’s probably safe to say we’ve all got some 2020 stresses that could use to be worked out on the bag. Everlast offers the complete box and bag set for your workouts.
If you have the room for it, an exercise bike is one of the best pieces of at-home cardio equipment you can buy: It’s effective and low-impact, which makes it easier on the joints. Sure, you can splurge on a Peloton bike or something else where you can connect with others during streaming workouts, if that’s more your speed, but if you just want something to hop on and use when you need a good burn? You can find a model like this one from Yosuda that isn’t as pricey and still gets the job done. There are also plenty of online spin classes that are free or low-cost. There are hundreds on YouTube and Instagram live, or just download the Peloton app for $12.99 per month—their particular bike isn’t required.
Sliders, gliders, or whatever you want to call them, these little plastic discs are mightier than they look. They’re a great tool for core workouts, compact, lightweight, and easy to store. Try getting into a plank, putting your toes on these POPDA gliders, and then slowly sliding your knees into your chest and back out again. You’ll quickly understand why we call them “mighty.”
Weighted jump rope
Jumping rope is one of the easiest ways to get your heart rate high, fast. Not only can you burn a lot of calories with a jump rope, but you can also do it anywhere (as long as your ceilings are high enough). This Crossrope set comes with two weighted ropes—one that’s 1/4 pound and one that’s 1/2 pound—so you can easily increase the intensity of your workout. There’s also a free app you can download for new workouts and tutorials.
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