We’re coming close to Winter Solstice, the longest shortest day of sunlight in the year, which falls on December 21. Each day we lose some daylight, the nights get longer, and the weather is getting colder. Trying to stick to your daily routine means waking up in darkness and probably heading home from work in the darkness too.
The changing seasons can be very draining and it’s enough that many women feel like going into hibernation mode.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, between 2-3% of Ontario’s population suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and as much as 15% suffer from a milder form of the winter blues. Signs and symptoms of SAD include lethargy, fatigue, weight gain, feeling hopeless, changes in appetite or food cravings, anxiety and social avoidance.
Even if you’re dealing with a milder version of seasonal depression, it’s not surprising then that many women fall off the wagon with their fitness routines in the cold, darker part of the year.
Gym avoidance in the winter months is not in your best interest– in fact, exercise is one of the best home remedies for combating the winter blues. Moderate exercise is also great for boosting your immune system.
So if you want to stay happy, and cold and flu free this winter, it’s important to stay oon track your regular workouts. Here are some tips and tricks to help you beat the inclination to hibernate.
Vitamin D is your friend
Experts think a big part of what causes the mood and physical symptoms of winter blues is the lack of sunlight. It’s common knowledge that sunlight causes the body to produce Vitamin D, which is an essential nutrient.
During the winter months, making sure you get enough Vitamin D is vital. Health Canada recommends a daily Vitamin D supplement for optimal health. Talk to your doctor about finding the correct dosage for you.
There’s lots of other easy ways to make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D intake throughout the day. Try to sit near windows with natural light as much as possible and
keep blinds open during the day to let as much sun in as possible.
Try to take a midday or lunchtime walk (when the sun is at its highest), even if it’s just for 15 minutes – soaking up some sunlight will help recharge your batteries.
If you are suffering from a diagnosed case of SAD, light-box therapy with special bulbs that mimic natural sunlight can be immensely beneficial. Therapeutic lamps can get expensive, but if medically indicated they are sometimes covered by extended medical benefit plans.
In short, exposure to sunlight and making sure you are getting enough Vitamin D will greatly improve your mood and energy levels. Making sure you are getting enough of this vitamin will help combat the winter blues and keep you motivated.
Have an Exercise Date
If you’re having difficulty mustering up motivation to hit up the gym in the depths of winter, make your workout a social event.
Workout with a personal trainer or friend – that way you’re less likely to make excuses or to cancel. Set a specific day of the week and time, put it in your calendar as non-negotiable appointment time – treat it like you would a doctor’s appointment or business meeting.
If you know that person is expecting you to be there you won’t want to let her down. In turn, you’ll also act as a motivator for your partner, so you both win! The socialization inherent with having an exercise buddy will also make the workout more fun.
Change up your routine and schedule
If it’s hard to get out of bed for usual morning workouts, consider changing your schedule around.
Make a point of going to bed earlier – it’s normal for your body to crave more sleep in the winter . Consider getting to bed an hour earlier and help adjust your body clock to the lack of light by gradually waking up a bit earlier each morning, until you become accustomed to it.
If that doesn’t work, rearranging your days. It can be hard to motivate yourself to workout when it’s dark out, so if you have flexibility in your schedule move your gym visit midday or afternoon.
Another way to help keep motivated around winter fitness is to take in some of the special seasonal sports and activities that the cold weather has to offer. In addition to your usual gym workouts, why not go skating, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing? They’re all great workouts a lot of fun, offer full-body workouts and can easily be made in a family or social outing.
Though you may have to wait a little while for the snow to start falling here (or plan a weekend getaway to take in some of the activities mentioned), free community skating rinks have already started to open (weather permitting).
The key to staying motivated around winter workouts is to make them work for you. Structure your schedule around usable daylight hours when you are likely to have the most energy.
In our next article, we’ll be addressing healthy, winter seasonal foods to help fuel your body and winter-proof your workout plan.