December 20, 2016
Even the most active individuals can lose motivation in the winter. Short days marked by inclement weather blur into long nights that only feel colder. It’s easy to fall into a frozen funk.
However, exercising releases “feel-good” brain chemicals, called endorphins, that lift your mood and reduce anxiety. Exercise also keeps your cardiovascular system strong, strengthens the heart muscle, lowers blood pressure and LDL “bad” cholesterol, and boosts HDL “good” cholesterol.
If you can get yourself into the habit of regular exercise through the winter months, you may find the season is much more bearable — if not enjoyable. Here are seven habits to make it happen:
Set realistic goals
Always have a goal, whether it’s to walk or run a certain distance, lift a certain weight or lose a number of pounds. Just make sure the goal is attainable, so you don’t get discouraged. Consider trying a new exercise class, such as yoga, training for your ﬁrst 5k or joining a volleyball league. You may not win any medals for your efforts, but that shouldn’t keep you from entering the race.
Warm up properly
Newcomers as well as regular ﬁtness enthusiasts should include a good warmup in their exercise regimen. A thorough stretching routine is especially important during cold weather to warm up muscles and prevent injuries.
Make sure to stretch all major muscle groups at the end of your exercise routine.
Dress for exercise success
One of the biggest mistakes people make is dressing too warmly before they head out in the cold to exercise. Body temperature rises a great deal during outdoor exercise; once perspiration starts to dry, you can get chilled, causing extreme discomfort and risking hypothermia.
If you’re going outside, dress in layers that can be removed as your temperature rises, and avoid wearing cotton close to your skin, as it gets wet and stays wet. Don’t forget to cover your hands, feet and ears on cold days, as these areas are prone to frostbite.
If you follow these simple preparations, you may ﬁnd the cold, brisk air is invigorating and just what you need to energize your winter workout.
Don’t skip breakfast
Many people think that skipping breakfast will help them lose weight; however, they are depriving their bodies of necessary nutrients to kick-start their metabolism for the day. If you work out in the mornings, wake up earlier to eat a small breakfast with plenty of complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain cereal or bread, to power your workout.
Watch your portions
Don’t overdo it when fueling for your workout. Pay attention to your meal portions throughout the day, especially a few hours before the start of your activity. Eating too much right before your workout can cause stomach cramps, while meals that are too small can leave you low on fuel in the middle of your routine.
Smart snacking is key
Snacks can add extra nutrients to your diet and give you a quick energy boost. Smart snacking includes staples such as energy bars, fresh fruit, nuts, yogurt, vegetables and whole grains.
We tend to drink less when it’s cold outside, but you can still get dehydrated in the winter months.Make a point to drink plenty of ﬂuids, especially water, before, during and after exercise to avoid dehydration.
Sports drinks are recommended after strenuous exercise to help replenish electrolytes, but not everyone needs them. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends the following:
• Drink 2 to 3 cups of water two to three hours before your workout.
• Drink 1/2 to 1 cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout.
• Drink 2 to 3 cups of water after your workout for every pound of weight you lost during the workout.
Don’t know where to begin? Find easy, winter-friendly exercise ideas here.
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