5 Ways I'm Energizing Myself to Work Out During the Dark Days of Winter
I know I'm not alone in the struggle to find the energy for winter workouts. There are some days when I'm still at my computer working when the sun sets, and my body immediately wants to go into hibernation. When those days hit and I haven't planned my day accordingly with a morning jog, a post-sunset workout is the last thing on my brain.
After a few painful days of fighting daylight saving (and losing miserably), I decided to look for ways to energize myself and fit in a workout even when I'm struggling to wake up early or work out late. Now, I'm not saying I've found the perfect formula, but I've managed to find five things that without a doubt give me energy to do the work.
Set Mutual Daily Goals
Not only have I found motivation in others this year, but I've learned that counting on friends to set fitness goals is a great way to hold me accountable. But this goes beyond agreeing to train for a virtual half-marathon with my best friend (which now that I've put it in writing, means it must happen!). This is as simple as talking about the workouts we want to accomplish that day.
At the beginning of the day, I'll talk to my friend about what workout we want to make time for that day: a run, a walk, a bike ride, a class. And we're able to check in with each other throughout the day to see when we've respectively achieved it. Sometimes, I even book a virtual workout with a friend. It's a great way to feel motivated simply by using the energy from others.
Have a Destination For Outdoor Workouts
Winter workouts can definitely be downers, depending on the weather. But to keep myself energized to get out and catch some fresh air, I've found that picking a destination before even setting foot outside is a game changer.
Whether it's the park, the Brooklyn waterfront, the neighborhood track only schoolchildren use, or even my favorite coffee shop, having a set destination (where I know how long and hard it is to get there) keeps me on track and motivated when I could just as easily back out 15 minutes into the run. Plus, if I'm working out first thing in the morning, I like to set my goal destination the night before so I have something to look forward to in the morning.
Do a Pre-Workout
This may sound a little counterintuitive, but hear me out. When I'm really struggling to get the mental and physical energy going, I like to do a little mini activity to get in the right mindset. This can be something as simple as 10 minutes on the stationary bike just to get my heart rate up before taking a HIIT class, a fast-paced walk to the track before starting my run, or even a few chores just to get me up and on my feet before a little bedtime yoga.
The key for me here is to move. Energy feeds off of energy, so when I trigger my mind and body that "it's time to work" with a simple activity, I feel much more inclined to take on my bigger challenge.
Pick Off Times
This has been one of the best parts of adopting a work-from-home lifestyle. Admittedly, there are times when I simply have to hit the snooze button once or four times. And there are times when I can't tear myself away from the computer right at 6 p.m.
If I feel those days coming on, I find myself sneaking in workouts whenever and however I can. A little lunch break becomes a 30-minute brisk walk. My 3 p.m. coffee break turns into 15 minutes on my stationary bike. If I don't hold myself to the before- or after-work workout tropes, my whole world opens up and I'm able to better listen to when my body is ready and energized that day.
Keep It Simple
Like most things in life, simple is always best. I've found that where I run into trouble is when I try to define what a workout is — it must be 30 minutes, I must burn 400 calories, I must feel utterly spent after. When I fill my head with workout "musts," the days when I simply don't have the energy seem infinitely harder. Ultimately, listening to my body and my energy level for that day and adapting to whatever workout I need then and there have been key.
I'm able to simply throw on my UA HOVR™ Machina LT Running Shoes ($160) and jog to the coffee shop 20 minutes away during my lunch break and know I've accomplished the workout I needed that day, rather than feeling intimidated by my own expectations. What's more, accomplishing any goal, no matter how simple, triggers the motivation part of the brain, which leads to more energy and excitement for the next activity.