10 strategies to stay active this winter

It’s the middle of winter:  it’s dark and cold and your pyjamas, trackies, heater and lounge room are warm and inviting. Hearty comfort food fills your belly and evening walks have been replaced with TV streaming catch-up services and movies. Sound familiar?

Sure, winter makes moving less favourable, but armed with some simple strategies, you can stay motivated and moving on even the dreariest of winter days.

Strategy 1: Shift your schedule

If you are finding it hard to drag yourself out of bed for early morning workouts consider what other opportunities there may be for exercise later in the day. Can you start work earlier, or finish later so that you can schedule a lunchtime workout or walk. This also enables you the opportunity to get some sunlight (and vitamin D), which can do wonders for mood, energy levels and of course uses up some blood glucose.

Strategy 2: Go straight to the gym

If you decide to schedule exercise for the afternoon or evening aim to go straight from work, rather than coming home in between where you can be tempted not to go back out. Have a bag ready to go all the time that includes the essentials like a towel, exercise clothes, runners/joggers, toiletry bag (if planning to shower), ipod/head phones, and water bottle. Restock it as soon as you get home so that it is ready to go for the next time.

Strategy 3: Exercise indoors

There are so many options for indoor exercise these days for when it’s too cold, dark, raining or windy outside. The increase in franchised 24hr gyms has enabled year-long gym memberships to become more affordable. Most gyms will offer a large array of cardio and strength training equipment as well as fitness classes lead by an instructor or via video, meaning you can participate in an instructor lead class when you want, as soon as you press play. Other indoor activities include yoga, pilates, cross-fit, TRX suspension training, dancing, acrobatics, trampolining and swimming/aqua-aerobics. Bikrim yoga is done in a room heated to about 40 degrees!

Strategy 4: Exercise at home

You don’t even need to leave home to keep fit during winter. While a full home gym set-up is ideal, it is an unnecessary luxury, which can be expensive and requires a dedicated space / room. One piece of cardio equipment e.g. exercise bike or bike trainer, rower, or treadmill, or simply a step-up box, or skipping rope is enough to get your heart pumping and a set of hand weights, or elastic tubing (Therabands) and a soft mat or carpet is all you need to complete a basic strength routine. There are many body weight exercises e.g. push ups, planks and squats that utilise no equipment at all.

There are also multiple avenues to access exercise instruction and programming from home. Beyond the good old fitness DVD, there are now hundreds of great mobile applications offering cardio and strength workouts; and virtual exercise classes are becoming hugely popular. In a virtual fitness class e.g. yoga, each person logs on at the set class time to join a live session. Alternatively, classes can be accessed via a recorded version if you can’t even make the virtual session. Virtual fitness businesses are offering memberships for access in much the same way you join a gym.

Strategy 5: Book an active winter escape

Why not plan an escape from winter by heading to the equator for a break that includes walks, swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving. Alternatively head south and rug-up to hit the slopes for skiing and snowboarding. Other active holiday ideas include cycling tours, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and rock climbing.

Strategy 6: Sign up for an event

There is nothing like a short term goal to keep you focussed on maintaining or increasing your fitness. Enter a fun run, walk, triathlon, or cycle event in early spring and use winter to train for it. It can take up to six weeks for even small noticeable improvements in fitness to occur. So if you sign up for a marathon in September, August is way too late to start training!

Strategy 7: Join a winter sport

Relive your youth, and enjoy the social side of fitness alongside a team of like-minded individuals. Traditional winter sports include rugby league, union and AFL, netball, hockey, and soccer. They keep you in shape via winter-long participation in scheduled games (usually on weekends), training sessions and tournaments.

Strategy 8: Hire help and/or buddy up

Sometimes the knowledge that someone else is waiting for you, relying on you to turn up is enough to motivate you to stick to your plans, even on the bleakest day. Whether you have paid for a block of yoga classes, or personal training sessions, or have committed to training with a friend at set times, use the thought of letting someone down as a motivator for showing up and honouring your health and the commitment.

Strategy 9: Making exercise happen

Make sure your alarm clock is not within reach so you have to get out of bed to switch it off, and have your exercise clothes / gym bag organised before you go to bed. Try to get up at the same time and go to bed at roughly the same time to help regulate your circadian rhythm and make getting out of bed easier. Schedule exercise into your day and week – make an appointment to exercise just like you would a meeting, haircut, or doctor’s visit, and try to stick to a routine e.g. Monday is jog, Tuesday is gym, Wednesday is yoga etc. Repeat this enough times for it to become routine – it will feel strange to miss a session.

Strategy 10: Challenge your thinking

Instead of avoiding the cold, embrace it. Put on a few extra layers, some gloves and go outside and experience the crisp cold air on your face and in your lungs. Winter is the best time to exercise because it increases blood flow and warms your entire body. You sweat less in winter! Is it really that bad anyway? Winter in Australia is relatively mild, with Sydney averaging 8-16 degrees. Winter in many other parts of the world is below 0 temperatures for many more months than our winter. Think of all of the wonderful benefits exercise brings e.g. more energy, a reduction in stress, improvements in work output/concentration, sleep and health – write these down and put it somewhere you will read often e.g. fridge, work desk, or back of the toilet door!

Winter doesn’t have to come with the expectation of a loss of regular exercise. It is just a season which perhaps requires you to pivot to a different beat, routine, schedule and environment to ensure exercise continues to be a pleasurable and powerful tool in your diabetes management tool kit.

You don’t need to be an athlete, you just need to move a little more than you did yesterday.

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