It is a major challenge to maintain your fitness when clocks go back one hour in late October. This is part of the summer / winter time cycle from a bygone era. There are calls every time to do away with the changes – though no serious moves to stop them.
Those darker autumn and winter nights are a significant challenge for your health and fitness. There are three main ways that your routine gets spoiled. Practical challenges with the weather and darkness are the most obvious. When you add in mood / motivation effects and vitamin D, it makes sense to come up with a plan.
Any of us that enjoy the great outdoors know that scheduling activities around work and family is a bigger challenge in the winter months. This applies to runners, water sports, football, walking and tennis – to name just a few.
I’d add to this the challenges of getting too and from the gym. When it is dark, cold, and rainy – well, it feels like a trip to the gym is akin to a trip through Mordor to Mount Doom!
Planning and flexibility are required to keep your fitness levels up.
I recommend coming up with a list of alternative activities before the clocks go back. Get into the habit of asking ‘how do I get exercise?,’ rather than ‘can I get exercise?’.
Alternatives can include a home HIIT routine or getting yourself a treadmill or exercise bike. Strength training can be maintained easily with a kettlebell routine.
There are alternatives out of the home. Replacing your hikes or runs with wall climbing, CrossFit or learning a martial art would be a great example.
Key to beating the clocks going back is to come up with a plan before you start missing sessions.
Loss of motivation and even depression are common when the dark nights set in. The extreme version is ‘SAD.’ This is ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ – marked by cycles of depression which peak in the winter months.
Motivation is key to maintaining fitness.
The relationship between wanting to work out and fitness works in both directions.
Once you start to get fit, it feels great – and you become motivated to continue (or even increase) with an active life.
That makes the loss of motivation when the clocks go back dangerous. Skip a few sessions in the gym, miss those walks or runs, and your energy levels decrease. It is now harder to get started on the next session… and so on, until your fitness level is a shadow of its former levels.
Being aware of the relationship between activity and fitness is a key step. Next you need to make plans to keep from hitting the downward cycle.
A great way to stay motivated is to get an accountability partner. This can be an informal setup – or even a friendly competition. Check in regularly and keep your fitness levels up. For those that can’t continue their regular activities – planning alternatives in advance (see above) will also help here.
Vitamin D is called the ‘Sunshine Vitamin.’ You get most of it from sunlight. It is super-important for multiple aspects of your health. Not least in your immune system, inflammation response and cardiovascular health.
When the winter months arrive, exposure to sunlight not only decreases – it can become tiny compared to the summer. If you are in an office all day, your only regular exposure is from walking to your car in the morning.
Making an effort to get outside during daylight hours will not only increase your vitamin D levels, but it will also lift your mood (and so motivation) too. This could be a morning walk, quick stroll at lunchtime or a bigger effort at the weekends.
Vitamin D supplements are available at every chemist. This is a popular way to give your levels a boost at any time of year.
Nobody enjoys those cold, dark nights – especially when it starts to get dark before 5pm.
This does create challenges to maintaining your fitness, along with your mental and physical health.
Fortunately, with a little planning, you can avoid the worst effects of the ‘Winter Blues.’ Coming up with alternative ways to get exercise for when you can’t enjoy your favourite activities is a great starting point. Add a buddy to stop your motivation flagging, and make sure you keep your vitamin D – along with other vitamins and minerals – high will also get you through the winter.
Plan the right way, and you could come into the spring fitter and healthier than ever!
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