Staying motivated to get to the gym is hard at the best of times, let alone in the dead of winter when the temperature plummets. If you are a morning gym goer, the dark, cold mornings make getting out of bed and getting a sweat on, just that extra bit harder. The warm and cosy comfort of the bed seems much more appealing than the inside of a gym. On the flipside, if you train at night, the lack of daylight and cold after work can make the couch, and an episode of Master Chef look like a much better option. It doesn't take much justification in your head to skimp on a workout.
When it gets colder motivation lacks overall. There may be some technical reasons for this too. The shorter days and lack of light exposure can impact peoples mental health in real ways. Estimations show that 10-20% of the population can develop a form of depression in the colder months known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) (quite an appropriate acronym).
Skimping on workouts in the winter can be detrimental for your overall progress. Winter can be a great time to bulk and stack on some muscle. Afterall, we know the old cliche that summer bodies are made in winter. If you slack off in winter, it can be hard to turn things back around ready for summer. Let's take a look at some strategies for staying motivated:
Get Everything Ready - Minimise Barrier's
A simple and often overlooked strategy for getting yourself to the gym is minimising barriers. We, as humans, are extremely good at making excuses and justifying our actions or in this case, inaction. Simply removing as many things to make excuses about is a great place to start. This is as simple as having everything ready in the morning for the gym. Clothes laid out, a gym bag packed and pre-workout and gym meals ready-to-go the night before. Then when the alarm rings, all is left to do is chuck those clothes on, down that pre-workout and head out the door. Get yourself into a good routine. Minimise as many barriers as possible. Try it. It works.
Try Something New - Change Things Up
It is easy to get stuck in a rut when we workout consistently. Old habits die hard, and we can find ourselves doing the same exercises and weights, even for years. Breathing some life into your workout by trying something completely new can be the perfect antidote to a lack of motivation. For example, if you mainly train in typical bodybuilder fashion, winter and the extra calories can present the ideal opportunity to try a more strength based, powerlifting routine. You may be surprised, the change in tempo and rep ranges might heed some new growth or create a new found love with the weight room. If you train muscle groups once a week, start training them twice a week. We did an article on this a while back, (check it out by clicking here). Use the winter as a time for experimenting and trying new things. Worst case, you find something that doesn't work and go back to the drawing board. Best case, you find something that sticks in your tool belt for the rest of your training life.
Find A New Training Partner - Partner Up
If you are capable of keeping yourself motivated and pushing yourself in the gym, that is great. But when motivation starts becoming harder to find as the frost settles on your car every morning, it might be time to get yourself a gym partner. There is research that supports this too. Getting a gym partner helps with motivation in three ways:
1) You get exposed to new ways of training that may not have been otherwise. Training with someone, you get introduced to new exercises and various training tricks that they have picked up over the years in the gym, and that can keep things interesting.
2) It keeps you accountable. Skipping the gym becomes a lot, lot harder when you know that someone is sitting there on a bench with their protein shaker waiting for you to arrive.
3) It can make the gym more fun. Training with someone can turn working out from more of a solo chore to a social event that you look forward to. True, you aren't there to socialise, you are there to workout. But some friendly banter and chat in between sets is fine. It can create some healthy competition and help you push yourself too.
If winter has you skipping the gym, then find yourself a good gym partner.
Supplement Your Way To The Gym
This might seem like a strange suggestion, but hear me out. Some supplements may just help give you that extra percentage of motivation to get to the gym.
If you don't take a pre-workout supplement, trying one in the winter to help get you awake and off to the gym might be an idea. Pre-workouts typically contain a range of stimulants, primarily caffeine, which can promote wakefulness and alertness. Check out our previous article on pre-workout supplements that might work here.
Vitamin D is a critical vitamin for human life. Our main way of getting it is from the Sun and as we know, the Sun gets even more scarce in winter. Among other things, Vitamin D deficiency can be associated with depression. So supplementing with Vitamin D in the winter can be a good idea to stave off the blues and keep the motivation up.
A recommended dose is anywhere between 1,000IU and 4,000IU-5000IU as a safe upper limit. And choose VItamin D3 over D2 as D3 is better used by the body.
Garlic, Zinc, Vitamin C etc
Getting sick becomes a lot easier in the colder months, so taking preventative measures by supplementing can minimise the intensity and duration of cold and flus. We have already gone into more detail on this in a previous article here.
Make A Killer Gym Playlist!
Music can be a great motivator in the Gym. It reduces perceived effort and acts as a good distraction from a hard workout. Read more about how music and exercise go together here.
Here are just a few of the many ways you can keep yourself in the gym and stay there this winter. But many of these tips can be applied year-round when motivation waivers - Gym Meals