You know the drill. Spring and summer are ideal for working out and spending time outdoors. Then fall and winter arrive with shorter days, darker mornings, and cold nights. It’s no wonder you want to curl up in front of the TV and hibernate. Yet being inactive will just make you feel more lethargic. To help you keep up the momentum to continue exercising, here are helpful tips on how to get motivated to work out in fall and winter and beat the winter blues.
1. Make a plan
The first step to avoiding the winter blues and learn how to get motivated to work out in fall and winter is to make a plan.
You’ll find that it’s harder to flake when you have a plan in place and have made a commitment.
If you’re always running around after your kids and you find that you rarely have time to go to the Pilates class at the local gym, then perhaps you should not make a plan that requires you to attend these classes.
Instead, choose workouts and fitness goals that fit your lifestyle, schedule, interests, and budget.
Oftentimes people join a gym, a yoga studio and hire a personal trainer. In their head, they think having memberships equals being fit.
Sorry to break it to you but just because you’re a member doesn’t mean that you’re working out.
When you break down the cost of these multiple memberships, they can add up quickly.
Instead of having multiple memberships, figure out what your interests are and if the membership offers the flexibility that you need BEFORE you sign-up.
Also, yoga studios and gyms offer free or low-cost trials. This is a great way to see if you like the studio, the hours, and the variety before you make a full commitment.
Once you’ve made a plan, schedule your workouts in your calendar or planner and treat it like a date that you can’t miss. You obviously don’t cancel on your dates all the time right?
By making a plan, you’ve taken out the decision fatigue which helps you stay motivated to work out during fall and winter.
2. Find a fitness buddy
Having a fitness buddy is one of the best ways to stay motivated to exercise at any time, but especially during the dreary winter months.
My colleague Alyssa Canada became one of my closest friends because we started working out together weekly.
We both realized that we wanted to get in shape so we challenged ourselves by finding a fun class to go to together. This led to some unbelievable adventures since we were trying something new almost weekly…jazzercise anyone?
Having Alyssa as my fitness buddy was enjoyable since we would challenge ourselves, laugh, and even roll our eyes when the classes were difficult.
Over the course of a few months, we got to know one another well and both met our fitness goals.
If you have a fitness buddy, the accountability will be powerful for both of you. I knew that if I told Alyssa that I would meet her at the gym or yoga class, then I would show up and not want to cancel on her.
If you prefer to work out alone, you can still have a fitness buddy keep you accountable via text.
Just the act of messaging a friend to let them know how your workout went will keep you inspired to stick to your plan.
3. Consider exercising your self-care time
Yes, I know you’re busy, and I can imagine it’s hard to find time not only to practice self-care but also to exercise.
Guess what? You can combine the two so you can have time for yourself AND your fitness goals.
Once Alyssa moved from Santa Barbara, we tried to continue to hold each other accountable but it was hard for her since she has a family and works full-time. She shared with me that honoring her self-care is what motivated her to finally set aside time to work out, even though she has a busy schedule.
You probably know that self-care is vital for me.
Exercise is sacred for me since it’s a critical part of my mental health and overall wellness. I notice that if I skip out on exercising for more than two days, then I get emotionally triggered more quickly, and my anxiety peaks.
Your self-care routine may look different than mine, but I highly recommend incorporating some relaxation into your workout to make the most of your self-care sweat session.
You can incorporate some guided meditation or use a mediation app for some inspiration.
Once you start doing exercise as part of self-care, you’ll stay motivated to work out during fall and winter.
4. Change up your workout routine
As autumn and winter begin, it is a great time to change your workout routine. Spring and summer are ideal for outdoor activities so you may consider what you can do indoors.
You may love winter but may not be as inclined to go outside when it is cold and dreary.
In addition, if you do the same types of exercises all the time your body gets used to doing these same activities repeatedly and your muscles are not being challenged.
This results in a potential weight loss plateau and even boredom with your workouts.
Your brain loves novelty and you’ll be way more likely to stick with your workout plan if it’s something you don’t dread, so move your workout inside. Instead of going on a run, try a 20 minute HIIT session or go to the gym.
You can also try a new workout you’ve been wanting to do, or go back to an older routine you haven’t done in a while.
When you change up your workout routine you’ll increase your motivation.
Keep in mind that it takes 30 days for a habit to form, so if you are completely new to exercise or if you are trying to change your schedule a little from the summer to fall.
5. Do a workout challenge
One of the best ways to keep you motivated to work out during fall and winter is to complete a fitness challenge.
Remember what I said about novelty and your brain? Your brain loves change even if you think you don’t.
Recognize that a fitness challenge does not have to be a grueling event like a marathon or training for an Ironman. As long as the challenge gets you moving and active, then it is well worth doing.
You can combine a workout challenge with having a fitness buddy and do it together. My friend Kelli and I do challenges on the Fitbit app. This is fun since it keeps us both motivated and a little healthy competition doesn’t hurt.
If you use an activity tracker like Fitbit or Apple Watch, you can set your own challenges. My daily fitness challenge is to complete 10,000 steps. What about you?
6. Make a small change to your workouts
One way to alleviate your stress and help you get motivated to start working out in fall and winter is to keep in mind that workouts don’t need to take a full half-hour or hour in order to be effective.
Ideally, getting 30 minutes most days is best for maintaining weight while also getting health benefits.
Keep in mind that the 30-minute activity doesn’t have to be done all at once. You can break up the 30 minutes into three, 10-minute sessions since they provide the same health benefits as one 30-minute workout session.
One way I achieve this goal is that I take short walks throughout the day. This helps reduce the amount of time I sit while working, boosts my energy (especially during the mid-day slump), and helps me achieve my step goal.
Other ways you can stay active during the day:
- Walk while your child is at practice instead of sitting or standing still
- Stand instead of sitting at your desk at work
- Get active while watching TV: get up during the commercials and get some exercises in like squats, push-ups, planks, etc.
- Have walking meetings during work hours instead of sitting on the phone or table
- Make an exercise commitment with your family: take time to walk, play an active video game, or dance as a family three to five nights a week (or however many fit into your schedule)
- Take a walk as a family after dinner instead of watching TV
7. Remember the exercise high
You know that incredible feeling you get after you exercise? I call it an exercise high and there’s good science behind this.
When you’re exercising and elevating your heart rate, your brain releases feel-good hormones like endorphins. These hormones flood your brain and body leaving not only with an after-workout glow but also with a good mood and lots of energy.
When you’re feeling tired and sluggish, your mind will try to convince you that you don’t want to exercise and find every excuse not to work out. This is when you have to remind yourself of the exercise high you’ll experience after your workout.
8. Ask yourself why you want to workout
We all have different reasons for working out.
For some people it’s to lose weight, for other people it’s to build their stamina or strength. While others work out simply because it’s part of their routine and they can’t imagine their life without it.
If you have lost all motivation to work out and have a hard time even putting on your sneakers to go outside to take a walk, then I would suggest you pause and ask yourself why you want to start working out.
Yes, we all need exercise but just because we know we need something and it’s good for us may not be motivation enough for you.
Perhaps you had your recent physical and your doctor suggested increasing your physical activity or losing weight as a preventive measure against diabetes or heart disease.
“I’ve been learning that it’s not just about motivation to workout, but it’s the WHY. Motivation can come and go, so having a WHY is very helpful! Some examples can be: overall health, the doctor putting me on medications if my lifestyle doesn’t change, stress relief, being able to keep up with kids, to sleep better, etc.”Alyssa Canada, LCSW
Or maybe you’re going to a big event like a wedding or high school reunion and you want to rock that new outfit you just bought.
Whatever the reason, it’s good to remind yourself of that when you begin finding excuses on why you can’t work out or hit the gym.
9. Reward yourself
We’re all wired for rewards and psychologically speaking, you perform better if you know there’s an incentive or reward after your hard work.
If you’re interested in reading more about this, check out the work of behavioralist Skinner who came up with operant conditioning.
Ask yourself what is something that you really want but don’t need. It can be something simple like a new pair of dress shoes or earrings. You can get real fancy and even think about a trip or gadget that you desire.
Unlike needs, wants are something that we typically should consider thinking about and determining if there’s money in the bank before we splurge on it.
So to motivate yourself to start working out, think of how you’ll reward yourself once you accomplish a certain amount of workouts.
Here’s a snapshot of my workout calendar.
As you can see, I give myself an immediate reward of a sticker right after I workout. Earning this sticker makes me happy because I can look back at the month and see how many I’ve earned.
Since I love self-care and massage, I reward myself with a massage once or twice a month if I’ve worked out at least 5 days per week.
When I feel lazy, tired, or disinterested in working out, I ask myself, “how badly do you want that massage?”
Nine times out of ten, I really want a massage, so I’ll lace up those sneakers and hit the trails for a hike, knowing that my hard work is well worth my effort.
10. If you’re still having a hard time feeling motivated
The biggest part of staying motivated is knowing and embracing the “why” that drives you. If you find you just can’t get yourself to work out, revisit your “why” for exercise.
Why are your health and fitness important to you?
Does it help you feel energized? Keep a clear mind? Keep up with your kids? Or de-stress after a long day?
Does exercise help you be a better, more patient mom, and set a good example for your kids and family?
There are so many different reasons and you may find that yours change over time.
Rather than dwelling over the struggle to stay motivated, you can take a step back and give yourself a chance to revisit your “why.”
Take some time to dive into what really matters to you, and use that to re-focus your workout motivation.
I dread when the time changes because it gets dark so early and I don’t have the enthusiasm to work out anymore. Yet I know that if I don’t exercise, I’ll just feel even lousier. That’s why I plan my workouts, reward myself and have friends who keep me accountable. I promise that if you follow these tips, you’ll learn how to get motivated to work out in fall and winter.
It doesn’t matter how you get your activity or exercise.
The important part is to actually do it.
Try to challenge yourself, find an exercise buddy, change up your workout routine and invest the time in your self-care by planning and scheduling your workouts.
Once you get your workout done, you’ll notice that you’re full of energy.
Exercise will lift your mood and mental state and give you the focus, alertness, and positivity you’re craving. You’ll even notice an increase in your productivity.
What are some of your favorite things to do in the fall and winter for activity and exercise?