You’re all snuggled up in bed when your alarm goes off. Yep, time to head to the gym or go on your morning run, but it’s freezing outside. You don’t want to skip — again — but the good news is, if you want to know how to stick to a workout routine during the winter, there are simple and effective ways to do so (even if your comforter is trying to lure you back into bed).
After giving yourself a good old guilt trip and a boost of motivation, perhaps you decide to layer up and get out the door. Or maybe you just can’t do it — so you decide to switch up your regular routine and start working out indoors, which many people seemed to have mastered during the past year-and-a-half, from nonstop HIIT YouTube videos to creating at-home gyms. Even if you prefer the latter, the primary benefits are the same. But it’s the getting and staying motivated that’s the issue.
No matter the weather, it’s important to do something versus nothing, Dr. Vivek Cherian, an internal medicine physician at Amita Health, an affiliate of Ascension, tells TZR in an email. The average adult should be aiming for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, like biking (indoors or out), taking a brisk walk, or jumping rope, he says. “There are several important (good) side effects when individuals incorporate cardio workouts into their life,” he adds. “Regular exercise boosts your immune system, increases your overall energy, and even helps you sleep better at night.” He points out that exercising regularly releases hormones, like dopamine — a feel-good hormone — and this can help fight against depression. And since some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), continuing with your exercise routine in the winter months is just as important and beneficial.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exercising regularly also helps strengthen your bones and muscles, can lower blood pressure, and can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as cardiovascular diseases and strokes. “Lastly, but certainly not least, cardio exercise can help your brain,” says Dr. Cherian. “With increased blood flow, you can have improved memory and decrease chances of developing a stroke or dementia down the road.”
An Easy Fix: Move Your Outdoor Routine Indoors
Karisa Karmali, founder of Self-Love and Fitness™ and an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and Online Fitness Coach, says if you don’t want to brave the elements, there are plenty of alternatives that can still be effective and efficient. “I recommend replicating your workout in your home,” she tells TZR in an email. “If you like running and you don't want to lose momentum, you can do squats (regular or sumo for a wider stance) and do them more rapidly to get your heart rate up. You can also use weights to replicate and train the same muscle groups that you would otherwise be training with during your usual outdoor activities.”
She says using deadlifts, too — with any amount of weight — will ensure that the muscles you’re used to using don’t lose their strength and mobility during the winter months. Karmali also suggests using a fitness step indoors in order to add a greater range of motion to your squats. “You can squat on the fitness step itself or use it for step-ups,” she adds. “Step-ups can be done as a warm-up or as a part of a bigger workout routine.” With any fitness plan, the number of sets you do depends on your fitness level and ability, she notes. “The most important thing is to stay within a range that is challenging, but not painful, and where you are keeping proper form,” she says.
Ways To Stay Motivated During The Winter
So you know exercise is good for you, but if you prefer getting out of the house for it, who’s going to get you out of your cozy bed when it’s just so cold out there? “In my own experience, once you are in the swing of it, exercise becomes addictive and you can’t help but incorporate it into your daily life,” says Dr. Cherian. “The challenge often is making the leap from not exercising at all to developing a habit of exercise.”
He says an easy way to get motivated is to get an accountability partner — a spouse, friend, neighbor, whomever. “Not only does this provide motivation for you to continue your workout routine, but having someone to work out with can make the time spent more enjoyable,” he says. “Also, consider getting a personal trainer, who can provide additional motivation and [help you] focus on achieving your fitness goals.”
Schedule It In Every Day
Karmali also suggests working out at the same time each day, if possible. “I think that when you're first starting out, it's important to have a routine because the routine becomes part of you; then you don't rely as much on motivation as you do discipline,” she says. “So routine provides discipline — thus, working out at the same time every single day can be a catalyst to set you up for success.” She says having go-to fitness apps or watching favorite YouTube channels can help, too. “I really like YouTube channels because I feel like a lot of the workouts can be modified to various levels,” she says. And even if you can’t pinpoint a set time to work out each day, Karmali says it’s important to have it on your daily to-do list. “It is my alone time and my relief for anxiety, so I get to it no matter what,” she adds.
Having goals in place — short- or long-term — is another way to stick to your exercise routine. “The goals can be anything from a weekend treat at your favorite restaurant or even a trip or vacation,” says Dr. Cherian. “Whatever motivates you to achieve the results you want is the way to go!”
No matter what workout you do in the end, the main thing is to enjoy what you’re doing. “Try to make exercise a fun activity rather than a chore that you dread even thinking about,” Dr. Cherian says. “This approach will keep you excited and motivated to achieve your fitness goals during the winter, and these activities will gradually turn into a year-long habit you can’t live without that is embedded in your life.”
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