Winter. The time of year I spend most of my time on my bike looking like this (see scary lady photo). I mean, there are so many reasons to love this time of year. Woolie jumpers, open fires, comfort food…you know the type of stuff!
But when it comes to keeping active and sticking to any sort of fitness regime, it can often be the time of year when all your best laid plans seem to fall apart. Not only is it dark before and after work, but fitting in a short run or getting your arse down to your circuits session suddenly becomes a task of epic proportions with frosty air burning your lungs and icy rain hitting your face.
But its not all as bad as it sounds – honest!
When the clocks go back its easy to think that you need to wait until March to come out of hibernation but if you can keep your motivation ticking over for these few months you’re going to end up coming out the other side with winter training under your belt and feeling a hell of a lot stronger and ready for spring!
So how can you set yourself up for an active winter? I asked some of my lovely friends to help me out with their top tips, and this is what they all came up with.
1. Power in Numbers – It is extra hard to motivate your bum off the sofa when you’re all by yourself! Maybe you have a friend or two that you can set up a regular ‘Sunday Run-day’ with or something that will give you that regular incentive to get out. When you know someone else is relying on you, or you have to commit your name to a rota, its extra hard to jib! Some great local options include Tuesday nights with Rhedwyr Hebog – a running group that caters for all levels – or the Actif Woods outdoor gym sessions at Gwaith Powdwr, Penrhyndeudraeth every Saturday 10.30am – great for anyone getting into exercise as each session is tailored to those taking part!
2. Embrace the darkness! – Lets face it, for some of us exercising in summer is the real challenge – the sweating, the overheating…lots of people around to see us sweating and overheating!! I had one customer who started trail running in the winter at Run Coed y Brenin with their Thursday night group – her comment was something along the lines of ‘If I’d actually seen those hills I probably would have turned round and never gone back’, but as it was she plodded right on up them…cos she didn’t know they were there. Nice one dark nights!
3. Fit it in with work – One of my friends told me ‘Whatever you do, don’t sit down at home after work; you’ll never do anything then’. She tries to make sure she can go straight from work to work-out – without the tempting ‘being at home’ bit in-between. Another friend of mine told me she fits her daily walk in at lunchtime while she’s at work – it’s still light, it gets her away from the desk & means she can guilt free sofa surf when she gets home after work! When exercise becomes part of your routine or part of the way you get to and from work it stops being the annoying thing you need to squeeze in elsewhere in your day, removing the stress from the situation!
4. Quality over Quantity – Dark evenings might not seem so attractive for regular, short blasts on the bike – especially considering the constant cleaning of kit that can be involved when its wetter! So rather than beat yourself up and sack it all off for winter, focus your attention on getting in 1 good quality ride that lets your legs have a decent spin, but also takes in the sunshine hours & more importantly, gives you the all-important Vitamin D boost that we all lack at this time of year. Plus Clwb Seiclo Madog Cycling Club have turbo sessions where you can get your miles done indoors & make cycling friends while you’re at it! Same applies to any other outdoor activities – a bit of planning & you can make it work!
5. Positive Thinking – Something I find at this time of year is that it’s easy to sit in your toasty office or house and look out the window at the grey sky and instantly presume its freezing cold and hideous and you’re best off staying inside. But honestly, more often than not if you step outside it’s really not that bad and lets face it, you’re going to get sweaty anyway, so what difference does a bit of rain water make??
6. Winter Warm Gear – This came up in a lot of my friends advice, and while it sounds simple, making sure you have some warm, toasty kit will make the world of difference on those colder days. It doesn’t need to be expensive either – you’ll find Aldi and Lidl both have great deals on cycling and running gear. In my experience a pair of thermal leggings, cycling glasses and a fleecy scarf make cycling really cosy even on the worst days.
7. Cake – This one doesn’t take much explaining, and is interchangeable with any treat of your choice, so long as it gets you up those hills! There isn’t much that beats the smugness of stopping for a coffee & cake break mid wintry ride or treating yourself to a hot chocolate with all the trimmings at Coed y Brenin post-trail run! Yeh, yeh, yeh, you can just do that anyway, right? But if you need an extra incentive to get out the house in your trainers, this could be the one that does it for you. Never have I heard the words ‘Fish Finger Sandwich’ shouted so often as during hill climbs on a recent trail run…it worked tho!
8. Winter miles = Summer smiles – it’s a cheesy one, but if you can get out at this time of year and keep doing what you’re doing, when spring and summer come back around you’ll be ruling the roads with your winter fitness training. Winter sea rowing can give you some lumpy conditions and icy waves over the bow (and up your back), but come the fine weather days and you’ll feel like someone switched the engine on as you motor along! Tell yourself ‘If I can do it in these conditions, I can do it in any conditions’.
9. And finally, don’t beat yourself up! – Winter weather can sap your energy. If your body needs an afternoon snuggled up on the sofa in your jim-jams, then let it happen. There is every chance you’re not going to get out as often at this time of year, and that’s fine. Take some time to give your battered body a bit of TLC and schedule your activity in when you can – remember you do this for fun, if you’re really not enjoying it maybe try something else or use this time of year to take up some local classes if you find it really hard to get outside. But don’t forget the feeling of absolute awesomeness guaranteed after your workout – if nothing else that should get you out the house every once in a while!