Recently I stepped out of the gym at 6pm only to discover – shock, horror – that it was already getting dark.
My first thought was, obviously, ‘WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?’ While many people are wanging on about how much they’re looking forward to winter coats and boots, I am pro-Summer all the way.
My second thought was how much harder it’s going to be to motivate myself to exercise now it’s getting cold, dark and dismal outside.
Exercise in the summer comes to us easily, especially if like me, you’re the type of person who bounces out of bed when the sun rises (HOLLER to all those weirdos who can’t sleep past 5.45am come June).
Even if you’re not, there’s no denying that a jog through a sunny park is way more appealing than pulling on your trainers while staring grim-faced out of the window at rain, clouds and cats sheltering under cars.
However, with the season of autumn comes comfort food, which means you can’t really afford to just give up on fitness completely, for fear you might start to resemble an actual sticky toffee pudding.
Body-consciousness aside, I also find that going into hibernation mode can end up making you feel low and listless – you need some time in the great outdoors in order to feel happy and healthy, even if motivating yourself to get out there can be tricky.
With that in mind, here are my top tips for keeping up your exercise routine in autumn, all learnt from my own experience…
1.Start a group activity
The main draw of group classes at this time of year is obviously that they’re indoors, so a drizzly day is no excuse not to get involved. But more than that, they provide extra motivation when you’re feeling sluggish, because once you’re in the room with the instructor bellowing at you, there’s little choice but to see the class through to the end. Plus, if the colder weather has turned you into a hermit, they provide much needed interaction with other people. I recommend an upbeat activity like aerobics, spinning or Zumba.
2. Buy the right gear
Newsflash – running in the rain is actually possible, particularly if it’s just a light shower. Ditto running when it’s super cold. However, many people are put off by both of these because they don’t have the right clothing. All you need’s a light jacket (please say you got the Miss Congeniality reference here?), plus gloves, a hat and scarf for colder days. You can get inexpensive waterproof gear from any big sports store – choose luminous colours so you’ll be easily spotted in the dark.
3. Run to or from work
Ok so you’ve got the gear, but finding the motivation to run when it’s grim outside is tricky. I’ve found that incorporating the run into a journey you would be doing anyway – i.e. to or from the office, is an excellent way to make it happen. Buy a good running backpack – one with straps that go round your chest and waist – and download an excellent playlist for your run (if you live too far from work, try just running part of the way). There is honestly no better feeling than arriving through your front door in the evening, exercise session out of the way and the prospect of a cosy night in ahead of you!
4. Set yourself a goal
The best way to keep yourself exercising throughout the winter is the pure terror of knowing that, at the end of it, you have one whopper of a fitness challenge to come up against. Take, for example, the winter of 2013, when I started training for the London Marathon in January and kept running through snow, ice, rainstorms and yep, more snow. I’m not suggesting you need to go quite so extreme with your goal, but certainly signing up for a challenge that takes place around April/May will give you the kick up the arse you need for an active winter.
5. Go for long walks
One thing I’ve learnt since getting my Fitbit is that walking is a seriously underrated form of exercise. There have been some days when I’ve really beaten myself up about missing a morning exercise class, but after going for a long walk in the afternoon, I’ve actually burnt off more calories than I would’ve in the session I skipped. And what could be nicer than covering a good mileage during a crisp, bright day, all wrapped up in a coat and scarf with the beautiful autumnal colours all around you? NOTHING.
6. Opt for evening workouts
As I mentioned before, I find getting up early in the summer a breeze. In the past two weeks, that has COMPLETELY changed, and every morning I find myself eyeing up my alarm furiously as it goes off next to me, thinking ‘Surely it’s only 2am?’ Then when I crawl through to the living room and rock back and forth in my dressing gown watching BBC Breakfast and drinking tea. All in all, it’s really not conducive to a morning workout, which is why I tend to switch my normally early fitness sessions to evening time in the winter. If you plan to do this, remember to take a late afternoon snack to work with you (for hanger prevention) and make yourself a little toiletry bag full of all the stuff you need (contacts, socks, hair bobbles, padlock, deodorant, water bottle) otherwise you will forever be rocking up at the gym post-office and realising you’ve forgotten something essential!
How do you motivate yourself to exercise in the winter? Share your tips in the comments below!