Winter running

Winter workouts: 9 tips to help motivate yourself to exercise when it’s cold

Posted by for Life

Writer and personal trainer Katharine Busby knows just how easy it can be to forget about fitness over the colder months. But this cold snap we’re going through in the UK need not be the reason you don’t keep up your exercise routine. 

Remember summer? Going for a jog in a cool breeze felt, well, a breeze. Heck, we even went swimming outdoors. “Oh, I’m DEFINITELY going to keep this fitness thing up over the winter!” we said. 

But now? Now, it’s officially 1C outside, you can see your breath in the morning and running just doesn’t have the same appeal. Even though some Tier 1 and Tier 2 gyms, yoga studios and workout classes are open again, getting outside in the cold to exercise is one of the few ways we can all keep moving our bodies.

If you’ve lost your workout mojo, these tips will get it right back. They’ve all worked for this writer at some point during the cold months, so try one, try four – try them all…

Exercise in winter: these are 9 ways to stay motivated.
Exercise in winter: these are 9 ways to stay motivated.

1. Be careful who you follow

Instagram can be a place of great inspiration to keep fit – in summer, you merrily followed every green-juice-swilling, pilates-by-the-pool-practising bod you could find. In winter, this gets trickier. A lot of those yoga types seem to have endless money and spend their entire winter in the sunshine too. When it’s blustery outside, a tanned Sydney-sider will only make you feel jealous and sad, sending you straight for the hot chocolate.

Try to find accounts of local people who are working out in similar conditions and at similar times of day to you and you’ll feel far more inspired. 

Try this:

Adrienne Herbert is an influencer who exudes positivity – even when it’s cold outside. While she’s our biggest running inspiration, she also shares home workouts for when you need to stay snug. 

Whether she’s sharing recipes that make nutrition easy or how she fits exercise into her life as a junior doctor, Dr Hazel Wallace is a great example of the fact that looking after ourselves doesn’t need to be tricky. 

2. Have an answer for every excuse

We all give ourselves reasons to not exercise. My favourite is convincing myself I have a cold, which is definitely nearly almost possible.

Listen to your excuses – then give them a positive spin.

Try this:

Excuse: “It’s grey outside”
Tell yourself: “But it’s not raining!” Or maybe it is drizzling. Then you think, “It could be snowing!” 

Excuse: “It’s too dark”
Tell yourself: “I’ll do an inside-based workout today, and plan a run outdoors at the weekend when I can go in daylight.”

3. Motivate yourself with new treats

Reward yourself – if you get up and go to that 7am spinning class twice in one week, give yourself a prize. Decide on your reward at the beginning of the week – it might be a new book or something more indulgent such as a massage. Make sure it’s not something you know you would have done anyway to really motivate yourself. 

Try this:

  • DOIY Girl Power Small Arm Vase

    Zara vase

    £49.99, Zara

  • Dreams, Interpretations, Hidden Meanings, Symbols book

    Anthropologie journal

    Anthropologie, £14

  • DIPTYQUE Roses scented candle

    Net-a-Porter, £47

4. Update your workout wardrobe

Updating your kit for winter needn’t be expensive but if you want to get outside to exercise and the cold is the main thing putting you off, some choice accessories will really help. 

Being warm enough makes a massive difference to your chances of leaving the house; I have a pair of Adidas running gloves that, due to my cruddy circulation, I have to wear from October to April. I also have a headband that I look utterly ridiculous in, but it keeps my ears warm – and definitely encourages me to get out even on properly chilly days.

Try this:

  • Fast Track Running Jacket

    Sweaty Betty, £100

  • Winter Running Gloves

    Adidas Aeroready Gloves

    Adidas, £24.95

5. Maximise your music

Still got those “I went to Ibiza (yeah, ok, Cornwall) in the summer” tracks to move to? A reboot is essential. Don’t worry if it’s not the cool, hi-energy stuff; put on something you haven’t heard in ages that’s likely to keep you going. Snigger all you like but some of the most successful ‘get up and go’ songs currently on my playlist are listed below.

Try this:

Better The Devil You Know, by Kylie Minogue 

Born This Way, by Lady Gaga

I Really Like You, by Carly Rae Jepsen

Encore, by Jay Z / Linkin Park

Jump Around, by House Of Pain

6. Eat for success

So, you’re planning to get up early and go to the gym. Excellent. What’s that you’re having for dinner? A slice of toast after a couple of glasses of red? Annoyingly, eating wisely really does help with exercise motivation. If you wake up feeling sluggish, it’s twice the battle.

As personal trainer Lindsay McCubbin explains: “Changing your diet to more protein and seasonal root vegetables will increase your energy levels, giving you the lift to want to exercise. Make healthy soups and up your protein intake with nutritious casseroles and stews.”

7. Stick to your guns

There will always be people telling you not to go. “Oh, you’re crazy!” they’ll say when they see you in your exercise gear. “It’s nearly Christmas, come and have a coffee instead.” BE STRONG. These people – friends, colleagues, countrymen – mean no harm (although sometimes they may be a bit jealous of your commitment) but they can send you right off track.

8. Make a 10 minute deal with yourself

When you really don’t feel like doing it, agree with yourself that you’ll just do 10 minutes. 10 minutes on the cross-trainer at the gym, 10 minutes of running, it doesn’t matter. If you really want to go back under your duvet after those 600 seconds then fine, but you’ll be amazed at how often you don’t.

And you don’t even need to leave the house. HIIT is a great tool for when you want your training done quickly (and indoors). Try 20 seconds of each of the following exercises, with a five-second rest in between, for a total of 10 minutes:

  • Star jumps 
  • Squats 
  • Split lunges 
  • Squat star jumps
  • Jumping jacks 

After doing this mini routine, you’ll likely feel inclined to do more.

9. Get ready to disco

OK, you’ve tried it all and you’re still not feeling it. But this one is so easy and even (genuinely) fun.

  • Download 30 minutes of your favourite dancing songs 
  • Close the curtains (or not – whatever floats your boat)
  • Dance like an idiot

You don’t even have to put trainers on, but it’ll get your heart pumping and warm you up.

Good luck!

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Images: Getty, Unsplash, iStock

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Katharine Busby

Katharine Busby is a writer and editor. She knew she was a feminist when she realised it didn’t mean chucking away her lipstick, but having the choice to do so should she wish.

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