It’s easy to find excuses not to work out in the winter: The days are shorter, the air is colder and life is just a little bit crazier. One study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that women actually took about 2,000 fewer steps (about one mile) per day during the winter than they did in the summer (which means they burned 70-100 fewer calories!). But don’t let the cold-weather blues keep you from looking—and feeling—your best! Here’s how to keep moving, no matter what month it is.
- Plan a warm-weather winter vacay. It will be much more difficult for you to slack off on your training if you know that swimsuit season isn’t over yet, says New York City-based fitness consultant Amie Hoff, co-founder of FitKit.com. And, in the meantime, don’t be shy with the self-tanner. “You’re more motivated to go to the gym in December when you know that your legs still look good in shorts,” she says.
- Set a new goal. Keep your eyes on the prize by signing up for a turkey trot or a jingle bell walk, or trying to master a new dance class. Or buy a new dress to wear on New Year’s that will fit perfectly … if you manage to maintain your weight through the holiday food-fest.
- Rise and shine. “I’m a morning person, and even I have trouble getting out of bed to work out when it’s cold and dark outside,” says Hoff. A few tricks worth trying: Plan to walk or run with a friend so you’re held accountable, preset your coffee maker so that it automatically wakes you up, lay your gym clothes out the night before and jump in the shower for 30 seconds before getting dressed. Also try a dynamic warm-up, during which you actively stretches your muscles in a way that mimics the activity you are about to perform (for example, try walking lunges before your walk, high knees before your run or butt kicks before your cardio class)—to get your blood flowingbefore going outside.
- Be flexible. “There is no real science that says exercising in the morning is better for you than exercising later in the day. So if you need sunshine or simply cannot drag yourself out of bed in the a.m., shift your schedule so that you can work out in the afternoon instead,” says Fabio Comana, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise.
- Get in gear. “Unless there is snow and ice on the road, you should be able to exercise outside all winter long,” says Hoff. Layer-up with ViziPRO tights, tops and jackets from Saucony (Saucony.com). The practically glow-in-the-dark pink and orange apparel will keep you warm and safe on the road. To make you even more visible to drivers at dusk, stock up on reflective gear, like wristbands and vests, at Nathansports.com.
- Run indoors… and love it! If you’re a runner who hates the treadmill, but hates the cold even more, stay away from steady-pace workouts. “Do intervals, where you push yourself for 3 to 5 minutes, then recover for one minute and repeat, to avoid getting bored,” says Comana. You could also do 30-second sprints or power walk uphill (great for your glutes!), by bumping the incline way up, every five minutes, says Hoff. To better simulate an outdoor setting, put the machine’s incline somewhere between 1 and 3, as well.
- Mix it up. “Instead of following your normal fitness routine, consider using this time to cross train or try something new,” says Comana. “Not only will mixing it up make you stronger, but it will also help prevent repetitive use injuries.” Sample a few new cardio machines, circuit train, lift weights, do yoga, sign up for a class you’ve never tried before, like Zumba, or go snowshoeing.
- Keep spinning your wheels. “Nothing beats the open road for cycling, but there are tools out there that make it interesting inside,” says Hoff. Sign up for a Spin class that uses a competitive leader board, which records everyone’s speed as you ride, to help keep you pumped. (Hint: You can use a fake name so no one else in the class knows who you are!) Or ride with a cycling DVD that takes you on a scenic tour through California while you’re on your stationary bike at home (bike-o-vision.com). You can even complete a Grand Tour, like the Tour de France, Giro de Italia or Vuelta de Espana on the Le Tour De France Indoor Cycling Bike, which moves up and down at varying resistances to mimic courses all over the world, using Google Maps technology ($1,299; proform.com).