It can be be hard to stay warm during the winter season, but what’s even harder is finding the motivation to stay warm. I don’t mean the determination it takes to sit in front of a log fire or blast your radiators at full heat; I mean the determination it takes to actually get up, walk out the door and exercise.
There are so many ways to stay fit over this period of endless feasting and it’s worth considering one of them, because we all need to eat much more over the colder season in general; whether we end up choosing naughty treats or not. Yet, whilst we may be doing an excellent job at keeping our bodies warm, we have to consider that being sedentary may not be the best way to achieve that; sometimes, the best way to keep the body warm is keep your blood circulating.
Exercise is already difficult enough in the middle of winter. Why would I do it when I just want to relax over Christmas?
Some may find it hard to take that first step out of the door into blistering, freezing conditions. However, the physical cold and that dull, unmotivated feeling lingering in your mind are both the exact reasons you should be running. Physical activity can help not only warm up the body through cardiovascular fitness and increasing the amount of oxygen that reaches all your important internal organs, but it can also improve your mental state.
So, if you’ve got the winter blues, research has proven that exercise is one of the best ways to help keep the brain active. Of course, it’s tempting to simply stay in your desk chair all day, especially if you’re at work every day of the week, but even spending your work break taking a short 20-minute walk around the office car park could do wonders for your memory – which is great when you’re trying to remember what on earth the present was that your child wanted so badly for Christmas this year.
Not only does running, and other form of exercise, help your mind in terms of memory, but it can help make you happier. At a time of year when we’re overloaded with stress and worry over everything running smoothly on Christmas Day, it can be hard to feel that Christmas cheer everybody rambles on about. Especially when, on top of all else, it’s freezing all the time. Exercise, however, releases dopamine into the brain, which is a sort of “happy chemical” that can help to put the joyous season of giving into perspective for you. Or, at the very least, it can provide a little pain relief during such a tense time.
That’s great, but where should you begin?
Talking about exercise is all well and good, but the question is where to start. How can you start to feel not only happy and refreshed over the coming icy months, but also brace your stomach for impact on Christmas Day? As motivated as you may be, some forms of exercise may not be for everyone, but it’s all about pacing. You have to start with what works for you and gradually build from there:
Some people just can’t hack running in these conditions and I don’t blame you, because I’m one such person. Of course, there are other ways to keep your body feeling warm, active and prepared for any amount of Christmas turkey or figgy pudding.
Cycling: an activity loved by many not just for its healthy effect on the body, but because it really does make things easier when you’re trying to get from A to B. It’s almost as if you’re killing two birds with one stone. Of course, cycling is a slightly different activity to running or working out and that’s true of any time of the year; but if you really want to get fit, you’ve got to think about safety over the winter season. If you’re cycling outdoors, ensure you understand the route you’ll be taking and assess the condition of the roads or the paths you plan to use. Terrain is key here, but don’t be deterred by difficulty; the greater the challenge, the greater the chance you have to truly push your body to new extremes. The greater the challenge, the greater the mound of chocolate to which you can treat yourself at Christmas (well, maybe you can pretend we didn’t say that).
Warming up is perhaps one of the most important parts of cycling and I’m sure, given how cold it is outside, this is a step you’re not at all likely to forget. It can be easy to see cycling as a leisurely activity, completely separated from all other sports, but you’re psychically exerting yourself and your body is being strained more than you might imagine. If you don’t conduct some proper warm up exercises, you risk an injury that could put you out of action for the entire winter season and render all your hard work pointless.
Of course, if you’re still dedicated to the idea of getting physically fit but are completely deterred by the idea of exercising in freezing conditions over the next few months, then you could consider the fact that cycling isn’t just something that can be done outdoors. Exercise bikes make look like an easier alternative, but don’t be fooled. Just because you’re not travelling any distance, it doesn’t mean your body isn’t still experiencing exactly the same physical workout as it would be if you were cycling a bike along the road or through your local park.
Whether you choose to cycle outdoors or buy an indoor cycling machine, the workout your body undergoes remains exactly the same. The temperatures might differ, but the clothing in which you exercise remains important and there are options for not only sleek, but performance-enhancing cycling gear: http://retro2ride.com/mens-cycling/
Not only should your gear remain the same whether you’re exercising indoors or outdoors, but so should your routine, diet and levels of hydration. You put your body at risk of injury and dehydration if you forget that, so remember to drink a sufficient amount of water and plan your route; or distance, if you’re using a gym bike.
Speaking of indoor alternatives when it comes to remaining physically active over winter, there are so many more options.
Running is an option favoured by some, but others may feel a little hesitant, initially. That’s understandable. You look outside and you might see frost, ice or maybe even snow, so you think the ground isn’t worth tackling today. Maybe tomorrow. Of course, if the external elements seem a little too treacherous for anything other than travelling to work, then you could always consider the internal alternative: a home gym.
It doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. You don’t even have to take things too seriously, if you don’t want to. You could start off with something simple like a treadmill, which is a great way to get a few laps in every morning (or every evening, if you’re working) without having to step out of the door and brave the wintery elements at all. You can get your body moving from the comforts of your cozy little abode, in turn reaping all the benefits of a healthy body and mind. You can listen to music, or watch TV, and – once the blood is really pumping to your heart – you might even find that you want to turn the heating down a little afterwards!
Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be boring. If you’re working out from the comfort of your own home, the main benefit is that you can consume all the same entertainment from your TV or laptop that you usually would; or, perhaps even more usefully, you can use the prospect of a Netflix binge session after your workout as motivation to really push yourself harder and achieve your goals within a certain time limit! Exercising with friends, colleagues or family can also help transform a lonely, individual activity into a fun, social event. You can cherish all the same forms of entertainment, or the social activities which make this time of year so special, whilst also keeping yourself in shape physically and mentally.
Of course, there are many forms of home exercise available to suit whatever the person and whatever they might hope to achieve through a physical activity. Perhaps you’d rather lift weights, invest in a pull-up bar, or simply bench press. Whatever the activity, you need only remember that the key to staying in shape is eating enough food to sustain your body through these cold months, whilst also ensuring that you balance out all those carbohydrates and any protein with a healthy amount of exercise. Your body has to work overtime in tougher conditions, so the solution to feeling better is to look after yourself better in response to that.
If you want to stay in shape over the Christmas season, think about how much more is going into your belly and what you could do to combat that.