It’s that time of year again, when we set the clocks back an hour. And while I love getting those extra winks initially, there’s always a sense of dread knowing the days ahead will gradually get dark earlier. This, plus colder conditions ahead, can easily squash motivation to stay active.
While it may be tempting to set your mental clock to hibernation mode until the warmer weather and sunshine-filled days return, hitting the snooze button on your healthy habits will only make you feel worse in the long run. One more reason to find a way to find a winter exercise routine that works for you: It’s a mood-booster and can help alleviate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
Here are a few ways to jump-start your winter routine:
There’s a lot of truth behind Benjamin Franklin’s old adage, “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” When you’re well-rested, you’re more energized to accomplish your daily goals. This philosophy extends to your aerobic ambitions, as well. We’re all guilty of marathon watching a Netflix series, or losing track of time while scrolling through social media, but regardless of what’s keeping you awake, one thing is for sure: Burning the midnight oil makes waking up the next day harder. And when your alarm sounds, it’s tempting to make up that extra hour of lost sleep instead of waking up and working out.
But by controlling evening distractions, you’ll not only get to sleep at a reasonable time, you’ll have a better quality of sleep. Here’s how:
Pick a time each evening that ensures you’ll get around eight hours of sleep. Subtract an hour and a half for personal time. So if you want to be sleeping by 11 p.m., your personal time will begin at 9:30 p.m. After an hour has passed, shut off your screens. For the remaining half hour lay in bed, imagine a relaxing thought, and go to a peaceful place mentally. This allows time for the brain to settle and slip into a sound slumber.
Using electronic devices right before bed is a habit worth trying to break. But if it’s unavoidable, adjust your screen to a dimmer setting. This will help reduce the stimulating effects of blue light, which are proven to reduce the production of melatonin — the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle.
When it’s time for bed, move your phone across the room to prevent any bright lights from notifications or alerts from disturbing your sleep.
If you work regular 9 to 5 hours, chances are the sun has already set by the time you’ve returned home. Not exactly a workout-inspiring setting after a long day. However, one perk associated with daylight saving time is the gift of more morning sunlight, which can make early workouts easier.
The body craves vitamin D. But since we spend more time indoors during the winter months, it’s common to be deficient in this vital nutrient. Just 15 minutes of daily sun exposure can improve bone health, lower blood pressure, and boost mental health. Use this extra morning sunshine to start your day on a fitness-forward foot. Aim for a 20-minute brisk walk, five days a week.
Not everyone is a self-starter. Finding and maintaining fitness motivation can be challenging, particularly when the weather is dreary and frigid. But one of your best allies to increase workout program adherence is to stay fit with a friend.
When you know there is someone counting on you to meet up at a set time to exercise, you’re far less likely to cancel plans than if you are exercising alone. Spending quality time together while you work out also promotes a sense of well-being, as bonding with friends or family over a common goal, like good health, can make you feel less stressed, happier and supported.