Sticking to your workout routine is a challenge once daylight savings kicks in. Not only does it get darker earlier, it’s cold–and even if you’re planning to sweat indoors at the gym, you still have to go outside (and likely warm your car up) to get there. But staying active during winter can not only help maintain your weight, research published in The American Journal of Psychiatry found that as little as an hour of exercise a week can also help combat against depression and seasonal affect disorder during those colder, darker days.
Stil, feeling motivated enough to do it can often be a hurdle. Use these trainer-backed strategies and tips from Charlee Atkins, CSCS, founder of Le Sweat, to combat winter workout blahs. (Don’t forget to start every work out with dynamic stretches, to help your body warm up and prevent injury.)
Schedule your workouts
Similar to meal prepping, Atkins says one of the easiest ways to make sure you stay on track during the winter is to sit down on Sunday night and mark the days you’re going to exercise. By writing them down, you take out the “maybe” factor and make them a definite. You can even take it a step further and write out exactly what workouts you want to do, which may help you save on time. “A gym session doesn’t need to be an hour,” says Atkins. “You can get your workout down in 30 to 40 minutes if you walk in knowing what you want to do.”
Sign up for a challenge
Stay accountable by joining a weekly challenge at your gym, try a Fitbit challenge, or commit to a weekly program (like this ab challenge on Le Sweat, which is only 7 minutes a day). By having a daily or weekly goal, you’re more motivated to stay on track. Plus, if you can see your friends and family crushing it, you’re less likely to slack off.
Use sticky notes
Use past emotions–good or bad– to inspire future action. “Whether you’re inspired from a runner’s’ high or upset that you missed a workout, expel your energy onto a Post-It and help use it to get your rear into gear,” says Atkins. Leave Post-Its on your mirror to help motivate you and remind you how you felt in the moment you crushed a workout or skipped one and felt crummy afterward. “Each scenario can help steer you to start sweating,” says Atkins .
Just show up
Getting there is the hardest part, says Atkins. There will be some days you just don’t feel like going to the gym or layering up for a run. Do it anyway, even if you have to modify your original plans. Not only will you feel better once your workout is done, but by staying on course with your routine, you’re less likely to bail on future exercise sessions. “If you can commit to your health and being active–even if it’s only for 30 minutes a day–your body and health will thank you, especially when summer rolls around,” says Atkins.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.