The harsh weather and cold temperatures make winter prime time for curling up on the couch and cozying up to a book…usually with a bowl of chips or a handful of chocolate candies to keep you company.
But it’s important to stay active and healthy through the dark, dreary months when you least want to get up and move. So here are some ways to peel yourself from the sofa, dust off your favorite workout gear, and prevent winter weight gain for good.
#1. Put something active on the calendar.
A good way to inspire action is to sign up for a fun springtime race or fancy exercise class that will motivate you to stay physically active throughout the coldest months. Of course, you won’t want to invest in a tough mudder or marathon (races can cost more than $100 each!) or a bells-and-whistles interval training class and not get your money’s worth.
Once you’ve sunk a few bucks into registration, you have no reason not to make a training schedule or show up to class every week. Better yet, enlist a friend to do the obstacle course, relay race, or group class with you. You’re much more likely to show up day after day if you know your pal is counting on you to be there.
#2. Get in the kitchen.
Plan out your menu for the week on Sunday and commit to cooking most of your meals at home. Never shop when hungry and stick to your pre-planned grocery list when you’re at the store, and you shouldn’t be as easily tempted to throw a box of cookies into your basket.
At home, a warm kitchen can be a very inviting place, especially in the wintertime, and preparing your food means you can not only decide portion size for yourself but better control exactly what you’re eating since there’s no telling how much added salt or sugar might be lurking in restaurant dishes.
#3. Stock up on gear.
Invest in some free weights or home exercise DVDs so you can break a sweat in the comfort of your living room. Not only will the new gear inspire you to try something out of your comfort zone, but the visible reminder (weights in the middle of your living room floor or DVDs stacked on your coffee table) will help you fit in exercise routines throughout the week. If you’ve already given weights and DVDs a try, branch out into new types of equipment.
Try a flashy jump rope, balance-testing BOSU ball, or resistance bands. If you’re willing to make a bigger investment, check out some state-of-the-art machines like the TreadClimber, the Wii Fit balance board, or a heart rate monitor.
#4. Take a mental break.
When feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, it can be difficult to set aside time to recharge, let alone hop on the treadmill. But taking just ten minutes each day to practice solitary meditation or daily gratitude can help you defend yourself against seasonal-related blahs and depression.
It’s common for stress or low mood to drive people to that pint of ice cream hanging out in the freezer, so take the proactive step of getting your mind free and clear of any negative thoughts.
#5. Rethink your social life.
Instead of planning get-togethers around decadent treats and alcoholic drinks, convince your friends to try a night of bowling or rock climbing at a local gym. You might be surprised at how willing people are to do something new and engaging rather than go out for another expensive happy hour or heavy dinner.
#6. Sleep smart.
You may find yourself getting sleepy earlier in the evening since the sun goes down so early. Please resist the urge to nap on the couch after dinner (it’s not quality sleep) and, instead, stick to a healthy bedtime routine that will give you between 7 and 9 hours of sleep.
Being overtired can be led to overeating, and sleeping too much can make you sluggish and less likely to be active the next morning. Plus, leptin levels that rise in the body during sleep help keep your metabolism running, whereas low hormone levels will cause you to store calories as fat.