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How to Stay Motivated in Winter

Fit4Action members provide cold season tips.

Fit 4 Action Onesie

Is the sporting onesie the solution to winter training?

Winter has officially arrived and it’s making its presence known by plummeting temperatures and blustery winds. Both the mornings and evenings are dark and motivation can also head south.

The Australian winter is barely challenging compared to other parts of the world where temperatures are sub-zero. Ice and snow cover the ground and there are only a few hours of sunlight each day. Canadian winters are particularly fraught with danger; outdoor training becomes impossible as the water content of the eyes can freeze after several minutes of exposure. Gaetan Plourde, our very own Canadian has reported that a trip to the shops can become a life and death expedition without proper planning.

We should think ourselves lucky, but it’s all relative and remaining in the warm and cosy haven of your bed, tucked under a soft doona can be a much more appealing option than a 5km run, but it’s a decision you make. Adam Azzopardi reminds us that hard work over winter equates to looking and feeling good heading into summer. And he’s right, fitness is simply a current state, and it is temporary. You use it or lose it. If you let the slow decline of motivation creep into your training, you’ll be starting afresh in spring, trying to rebuild all that strength and fitness that you spent so long working on at the start of the year. Imagine the blooming of spring flowers as you emerge from the other side of winter feeling fit, fab and fast and ready to take your training to the next level.

So how do you stay motivated? Remembering what motivated you in the first place is a start. There is a reason all of us began to value our health and took the necessary steps to get the most out of life by becoming physically fitter. That desire hasn’t changed; it has just come under more competition from comfort. Bernadette Van Den Bergh takes a simpler view by stating “don’t question it, just do it and stay committed to your training plan”. For the more determined of us, this is a good mindset as there really isn’t any physical negatives to winter training. Nothing really changes. Sure, it’s a little colder, and your trainer may adjust sessions to lessen work on the cold floor, but you have the same opportunities to develop your fitness. The worst the rain can do is get you wet, which is only a problem if you had no intention of showering post-workout. And by the time you’ve been through a warm shower, you’ll be feeling fantastic on the way to work, with a furnace of body heat to get you through the day.

Anneliese Haswell uses shopping as a more surprising source of motivation. Her original goal was weight loss and she knows that if she works hard throughout the winter she will not only have earned a new wardrobe, but she’ll be in dire need of much smaller clothing by the arrival of summer.

“This year, I am getting stronger, faster and fitter with each session…this is the best motivation for me” she states. Having lost over 25 kilograms to date and attending over 200 sessions, she’s highly qualified in the art of staying committed to a goal, whatever the weather. Sophy Townsend reinforces that view, “Losing weight, seeing a change in my body shape and feeling fitter is my motivation. Needing to go shopping for new clothes to fit the new body shape makes me happy”.

And isn’t it all about happiness? We train to become better versions of ourselves.

Staying focused on your goals is clearly important and we have some unique opportunities in winter as this is running season. With several events from now until the start of summer, these events provide a great opportunity to train for the next level.  With many of the team completing an 8km run recently, upcoming events up the ante at 11km, 14km and 21km respectively. Everyone can run; some of us just don’t know it yet. Challenging yourself by running a new distance or running last year’s race even quicker can provide a great driver, but you have to really want it. Bragging rights are more likely to get the blokes out of bed in a morning, maybe a friend or relative has a time you’re trying to beat.

Keeping notes of your goals in visible strategic locations may offer the extra kick you need. As you reach over to silence the dawn alarm, a little note reminding yourself that 1kg a week was your promise, may keep you true to yourself. For evening participants, stick it on your car dashboard, laptop or fridge door. Making the choice to just go home and get warm will be one that will begin to bite you back when spring rolls around.

When Brian Rochester was asked what members should do to get through winter training, he simply states “Just harden up”.  While this may fall short of becoming the new catchphrase for sporting brands, there is little doubt that developing a stronger mental attitude will reap dividends in physical improvement. Your body will only do what your mind tells it to. And it’s a lot stronger than you think.

Chris Horder has developed a similar mental approach explaining that he tries to pretend that it’s not really happening and hoping he doesn’t come around until he’s already half way there. Getting up and out the door is the issue, once at training everything else will fall into place.

Public shaming may not be a suitable option for absentees, but fellow participants in group training are also good motivators. Everyone is there trying to make exercise a habit and to better themselves. It’s a nurturing environment where a team can work together towards a common goal. Having a training partner is an equally good method. Promise someone in the group that you’ll be there and you’re suddenly accountable to more than just your trainer. Kick your partner out of bed and drag them down, two positive minds working together have a higher chance of success and can help balance out when one of you doesn’t feel overly enthusiastic. And if you feel it’s too easy to just not turn up, speak to you trainer about Personal Training, where the stakes for a missed session are much higher.

The social aspects of a small group environment can also keep you turning up. You could train for hours in soul-less gym classes and never speak to another participant. True friendships can be formed in group as Carrie-Ann Notman explains; “A big driving force for me is catching up with everyone I train with, to see how they are and what they’ve been doing over the weekend. I do sometimes feel guilty if I miss a session, knowing they’ll be down there training away”.

That same group of friends is the people you’ve shared your goals with. They want you to succeed and if you have declared that you’re entering a half-marathon, they’ll be asking you how your training is going and whether or not you finished your long run at the weekend, leading to further accountability and positive peer pressure.

There are also practical steps that can be taken to make the transition from sleep to high intensity exercise a little easier on those colder mornings. Having your training gear ready and waiting next to the bed can limit excuses. Having the room at a pleasant temperature by the time the alarm sounds can delay the shock of cold weather until you’re already dressed and out the door. There are even those who choose to sleep in their training gear making the dawn challenge even easier.

Fiona Stubbings and Michelle Curtis were in favour of developing the ‘Fitness Onesie’ whereby the user can sleep in comfort and roll out of bed ready for action in the baby-grow / tracksuit. Until that groundbreaking product is available, Fiona simply ensures she has warm training gear ready to go to ease the shock of cold.

Dressing in several layers will keep you insulated. As you begin to warm-up, you can peel off a layer at a time. There is no harm turning up wrapped up in bundles equipped with hat, gloves and scarf, if that’s what it takes to get you through.

If you’ve lost sight of why you’re training, always remember there are numerous benefits to regular exercise besides weight loss, which is why your routine should be a habit and a lifestyle choice, rather than a fad or a quick fix. You’re boosting your immune system, strengthening your bones, reducing the risk of disease and depression and maybe extending your life expectancy.

The 21st of June is the shortest day of the year. Only a few more weeks and it begins to get warmer and brighter.  Keep striving to better yourself by; preparing well; remaining positive; staying on top of short term goals whilst chipping away at those long term achievements; reward yourself for success; making yourself accountable to the group and your trainer and finally, to spring into spring instead of falling out of winter, just toughen up.