The days are getting shorter; the mornings a bit chillier than before. Your bed is so much warmer than the chilly dawn air. Regular fitness training often falls by the wayside this time of year, especially with the holidays coming up quickly.
Finding new motivation and setting goals may work, but fitness motivation can wane depending on the day. What you need to develop is discipline: it’s a practice you do without thinking, like brushing your teeth.
Being disciplined does not mean you have to deprive yourself or live like a Tibetan monk. It means you practice doing something that makes you stronger, in hopes that it becomes necessary everyday.
The purpose of this article if for me to share some ways to stay motivated for the next few months until we come out of hibernation. Like I said, discipline is key, but building discipline looks slightly different for everyone. So here are some of my personal “hacks” that keep me motivated and disciplined through the late fall and into winter.
Don’t overeat around in the weeks ahead
Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are diet killers. I don’t see any reason to deprive yourself of traditions, but there’s no reason to ply yourself with processed foods, sugar, and alcohol, either. Some indulgences are great, but don’t eat just for eating’s sake. If we eat or drink too many things that aren’t good for us, we’re basically poisoning ourselves. Portion control is a must, and so is self-control. If you can control your eating, you can control anything in your life.
That process starts by not buying or bringing junk food into your home, which is tougher when you have kids. We all like seeing our kids’ faces light up when we get home with ice cream. I know I do. Occasionally, that’s great; having it readily available is a recipe for disaster.
Therefore, having healthy, “boredom” snacks available when light hunger strikes is vital. Colder weather means you and the kids are inside a lot more. The kids will test your discipline if you let them, so be prepared to offer the whole family something light and nutritious. Plus, you’re less likely to get your workout in if you feel hungover or sluggish from what you ate/drank the day before. Remember, discipline.
Change your workout plan
If you don’t have a program, get one. Get two. One for the gym and one you can do at home. This way, you can quickly work out on days the kids have a game, a choral concert, or a play. This time of year gets crazy. Just when you thought you couldn’t be stretched any thinner, more comes at you.
Making time to see your kids is the most important thing, but it takes away from your gym time. And you can’t be right for them if you aren’t right with yourself. Get up 45 minutes early on days you have somewhere to be that’s not in your typical schedule. You don’t need fancy gym equipment to get a quick 30-minute session, and your stress level will change drastically. Giving all of your energy to everyone else is taxing mentally and affects you physically. So make the time no matter what.
Commit to a holiday 5k or 10k run
Find some friends and family and do something different this year. Running a Turkey Day 5k in the cold morning before eating your face off is a lot more gratifying and will leave you feeling less guilty eating your third helping of sweet potato casserole. Having some friends or family run with you is so much fun and could become a new tradition. The kids might even get involved.
My best piece of advice for cold-weather running is to have the correct clothing. I always wear a hat, something around my neck, and gloves. As a running coach, I try to make running fun. Most of us only had to run as a form of punishment. So I hear, “I hate running” all the time. Running can be extremely fulfilling if you learn to run slowly and have the right equipment. Don’t be afraid to walk, either.
Take it easy on yourself
My last piece of advice to stay disciplined or motivated is to take it easy on yourself but never quit. This is actually year-round advice. Fitness should be a lifestyle. And be sure to rest, as well. Rest and revitalization are as crucial to your health and soul as exercise. Don’t stress if you get a little softer during the winter. Bears don’t worry about gaining some weight to hold them over til spring. They wake up, and they’re still a bear. Tough and strong.
If you miss a day or two or a week of training, don’t quit. The cure for your anxiety, your depression, and your anger is exercise. Follow the first four suggestions above, and you’ll hit next spring like a grizzly bear hits a school of spawning salmon. Plus, you won’t be starting from zero like most people. Before you know it, the sun will be beckoning your soul again, and this time, your soul will be ready, rested, rejuvenated, and in a lot better shape than last year.
I hope these tips help you as they do me. I have plenty of days I don’t want to get up and I don’t want to train. I want to sleep. I’m also disciplined enough to know that if I take that first step, I’ll be so much happier when I’m finished. If you can do the small things, the big things take care of themselves.