As the days get shorter and colder during the winter, the temptation for women to stay inside under a blanket often overrules any desire to get to the gym. “For many of us, our clocks are set to the sun, so when it’s darker in the morning when you’d get up to work out, or it’s already dark when you get home from work, it zaps motivation,” says Finish It Fitness owner Tim Detmer.
Staying in shape over the winter may not be easy, but finding alternative exercise options and additional encouragement will help women stay on track to better health. “A workout partner—someone who can hold you accountable—can help keep you going,” Detmer says. “Also, be very clear on your goals and what they mean to you.”
Even when one’s motivation isn’t lacking in the cold weather months, exercise options may be. Inclement weather can prevent any outdoor activity, so “probably the biggest challenge would be getting enough cardio,” says Fitness Connection owner Mary Bauer.
Frequent trips to the gym can help, but women should be careful when choosing a workout plan. “A lot of heel, foot and knee injuries can occur on a treadmill because everything can be too consistent and even-paced,” Bauer explains. “I’d recommend spinning classes to get your cardio in.” Interval training on the treadmill, elliptical or bike also can help avoid those injuries while “jumpstarting your metabolism and keeping that high level of fitness,” Detmer adds.
When it’s too cold or snowy to get to the gym, there also are workout options at home to stay in shape. For instance, core exercises to work the lower abs are important for women, because “we tend to be really weak in our lower abdominals, either from posture or from having children,” says 20 Minutes to Fitness GM Casey Breslin. Detmer also recommends a creating a routine of highintensity cardio moves like mountain climbers, squat thrusts and jumping jacks. “All of those can be valuable when you stack them on top of each other and get an intense workout without needing a lot of space or equipment,” he says.
While women may keep up their cardio, strength training is often an overlooked part of their exercise plan. “Women are fearful of lifting weights because of the stigma of getting bulky, but that doesn’t really happen unless their bodies produce a lot of extra testosterone, which is really rare,” says Breslin.
Women should experiment and find a weight that they can lift slowly for two minutes, with a 10-count to pull up and lower down, Breslin explains. “By using free weights, women can tone and reshape their bodies while helping to build bone density and growth,” she says.
If there is a chance to exercise outside during the cold weather months, there are precautions to take, while running or walking. Proper clothing is key, along with the right footwear to keep one’s balance around dangers like black ice, Detmer says. “You don’t want to slip and twist an ankle because that will hinder your exercise goals when you have to take a week off to heal,” he says.
At the very least, Bauer encourages women to use a pedometer during the winter and reach a certain number of steps each day before curling up in front of the fire. “Winter is definitely a challenge, but getting those 10,000 steps keeps me motivated,” she says. “I won’t sit down until it’s done.”