How to Stay Motivated for Winter Exercise

Tricks and tips to find motivation to move when the temperatures drop

Running in the winter.
Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

Finding the motivation to exercise through a dark, cold, and wet winter is never easy. My friends and coworkers seem to share this sudden lack of motivation for exercise during the darker months.  A better plan sounds like cozying up to a cup of tea and a good book.

However, once I manage to switch gears, and appreciate the benefits and novelty, of cool weather exercise, I realize how much I enjoy the changing season, and how ready I am for Fall and Winter workouts.

In fact, the change of seasons can be an ideal time to exercise. It's the perfect excuse to change a summer routine, try something new, and breath some crisp, cool air. Fall exercise will keep you warmer as the temperatures drop, reduce your appetite for all the winter feasting, and help you maintain a healthy attitude, as well as body.

Embracing the change of season may not come naturally, though. In fact, it's not uncommon to feel the motivation to move disappear, along with the sun. If that is happening to you, here are a few of my favorite tricks to finding my hidden motivation, and help make the transition to cold weather exercise. Maybe they'll work for you as well.

Tricks for Finding The Motivation To Exercise

  1. Fake It Til You Make It
    Don't just wait for motivation to suddenly show up and grab your hand and drag you out the door. Even if you were to hand your house keys to a personal trainer and pay her a whole lot of money to get you up and out of the house, you are still the one that has to do the work. No one can do that for you. That little voice in your head may be urging you to stay in bed and exercise tomorrow. Or it may be whining like a toddler, "I just don't feel like exercising today." Ignore it. Go do it anyway. Fake it. Use this mantra if you have to: "Fake it til I make it, fake it til I make it." You know you'll be glad you did it the moment you step into the shower.
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  1. Be Smarter Than Your Excuses
    While it's easy to say, "Stop making excuses," the truth is, you will. You'll come up with many excuses that are so good, you won't even realize you just made one. I know. I have them too. Some of mine have been exceptionally creative and sneaky. How about the, "I can't exercise today because I'm having a good hair day and don't want to ruin it" excuse. Really? I'd forgo a healthy body and mind for a few more hours of good hair? That's just dumb. But rather than trying to stop the inevitable excuses, I think it's far more powerful to catch yourself making them, recognize how completely hilarious they are, and then let them move right on past. The little voice will likely try to find another, and another, and another excuse, grasping for the one that will finally convince you that you should not exercise today. It's a rather humorous discussion if you can step back and just notice it. And once you notice it, it's pretty easy to outwit your excuses.
    Also see: Mindfulness for AthletesHow Thoughts Influence Sports Performance
  1. Put On Your Exercise Clothing
    You don't need an intention to exercise, but just put on your workout clothes. You may be amazed at the power of this one little action. I always am. I don't know if it's the association my subconscious makes between my workout clothes and my need to move, or if the idea of getting dressed for exercise actually seems like more effort that the workout itself.  Perhaps I just feel so silly in workout clothes if I'm not exercising that I have to justify the attire, but whatever the reason, putting on exercise clothing works for me. I think it may work for others as well. Give it a try and see.
  2. Give It Ten Minutes
    If you tried the above advice, and still find that you are sitting on your sofa, get up and do something, anything, for just ten minutes. You can walk around the block, or just do some push ups, sit ups and jumping jacks. Set a timer for ten minutes and say you'll stop when you hear that lovely buzz. What's ten minutes out of the day? After you reach ten minutes something surprising may happen to your energy level, and your motivation. You may find that all you needed was a bit of momentum. It's often true that it's harder to get something moving than to keep it moving, so whether it's physics or psychology, give it ten minutes and see if you discover some dormant motivation.
  1. Get New Running Shoes
    If my experience is anything like yours, a new pair of shoes call to me, "Put me on. Use me! Let's Go! Now!" I can't wait to get to know the new addition to my collection. It could be something else for you: new gear, equipment, a new hat, sunglasses, or some fancy new exercise gadget. But for me, it's shoes. New shoes offer the promise of the perfect fit, the ideal exercise companion and even the potential to run faster, farther and with more ease. New shoes give me energy. While it doesn't always last, it lasts long enough to get me back into a running habit if I've been doing other things over the summer. Running is my perfect fall exercise because I can do it in any weather, it doesn't take a long time, and it's as easy or as hard as I want it to be. It's the  perfect workout when I really don't feel like working out, and new shoes make it that much more appealing.
  2. Schedule Your Workout
    If you are the sort of person who needs to schedule it, or if you are a list maker, by all means do that. It is far more likely you'll complete your workout if it's on your agenda or your "TO DO" list. So write it down, set a reminder and get on with it. Schedule it at least a day or two ahead of time. Another little trick that makes this step more motivating is to take a moment while you review your daily calendar, to visualize yourself actually completing your exercise for the day. What will you do? When will you do it? Create a mental picture for just a few seconds. Also, take a second to make sure you have everything you need in your gym bag to make sure your workout happens. Get this in your head, and you will be more likely to see that it happens. Then get on with your day.

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