Maintaining the motivation to work out and eat right can be an elusive task no matter what time of year it is. But for most of us, those dark, cold, dreary winter months totally zap our mojo to stay active and eat healthy.
And it’s easy to understand why! Who wants to run around in sleet and snow when you could spend all day curled up with a hot cup of cocoa, binging on mashed potatoes, hiding under the blankets, and watching nostalgic holiday movies?
To make matters even worse, the winter months are also filled with heavy eating holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, which can be huge triggers if you’re trying to stick to a healthy diet. So whether you’re looking for ways to stay on track with exercising or eating right, we’re here to provide some back up.
7 Tips to Help You Stay Motivated This Winter
To help you on your quest to maintain healthy habits during the winter months, here are seven tips that are sure to boost your motivation—no matter how depressing it looks outside.
1. Make a Plan
When plotting your attack against the sluggish, indulgent winter months, your first line of defense should be having a plan — this goes for both exercise and eating.
Schedule out your workouts so you know exactly what you’re going to do and when. If you don’t have to think about what you’re going to do when the clock strikes “workout o’clock” then it will be easier to jump right into exercising.
When it comes to food, the line between “indulging a little” and “full-on gorging” can sometimes get confusing. To help you get through triggering meals (looking at you, Thanksgiving), think about what you’re going to eat ahead of time. What foods will be at the meal? What do healthy portions look like for those foods? Answering these questions before you’re faced with a plate of marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes can help keep you from over-indulging. And if you really don’t think you can handle a triggering buffet, ask a trusted loved one to fill up your plate for you.
You can also bring a dish with you that you know is healthy if you’re worried there won’t be enough nutritious options at the feast. We have plenty that you can choose from on our recipe page!
2. Change Things Up
“Monotony has a way of sapping exercise motivation, so one of the first things you can do to maintain it is inject some variation into the stale routine you’ve been following doggedly for months (or even years),” says Trevor Thieme, CSCS, Openfit’s senior fitness and nutrition content manager. “Now is the perfect time to sign up for that boot camp or spin class you’ve been eyeing.”
Switching up your routine can not only help keep things interesting, but also change the demands on your muscles, stimulating new growth and fitness gains (including weight loss). In other words, “adding variation to your workout program is the key to busting through a training plateau—or avoid hitting one in the first place,” says Thieme.
3. Surround Yourself With Motivational Words
Encouraging podcasts and TED Talks, inspiring Instagram accounts and YouTube videos, and even strategically placed post-it notes can help you reframe a negative, sluggish mindset and remain motivated and focused on your goals.
If you’re having trouble finding the right words, David Goggins can likely give you some. A retired Navy SEAL (and former world record holder for the most pull-ups in 24 hours), Goggins will have you wanting to run an ultramarathon by the time you finish one of his YouTube videos. The YouTube channel Be Inspired is also worth checking out, offering inspiring thoughts, perspectives, and tips for keeping up with your goals.
Do your research, and find the voice that speaks to you. Sometimes, even a simple motivational quote taped to your mirror can be the trigger that turns lethargy into positive action.
4. Find a Workout Buddy
Few things motivate like accountability. If you know a workout buddy is relying on you to show up to an exercise session, you’re much less likely to flake on your fitness plans. That translates to greater workout consistency, which is the key to reaching any fitness goal.
Accountability is just one of the many benefits of working out with a buddy. Sweating with others also increases exercise effort (through friendly competition), workout enjoyment (another powerful motivator), and even athletic performance (because it’s human nature to try extra hard when others are watching).
5. Focus on Winter-Specific Activities and Foods
“Embrace activities that you can only do during the winter, such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing,” Thieme says. Knowing you won’t be able to do these activities year-round may shift your perspective from “ugh, it’s so cold and dreary,” to “I’m so pumped I can finally snowboard — I’ve been waiting all year for this!”
This goes for foods, too. Try out some new recipes that feature winter fruits and veggies. Root vegetables (like potatoes, beets, and parsnips) are in their peak, delicious state during the winter months and can easily be roasted for a flavorful side dish, or mixed into hearty roasts, soups, and stews.
6. Get the Right Gear
Once you’ve found your winter activity of choice, the next step is to gear up. “If you don’t have the right gear for the environment or the weather, that’s going to be a huge obstacle as far as motivation is concerned,” Thieme says.
It’s also just not safe to be out in cold weather without the proper gear, he adds, so invest in some warm, lightweight clothing. Throw on a fleece or merino wool hoodie to insulate your core, keep your head warm with a beanie, and make sure you don’t lose too much heat through your fingertips with windproof gloves. Also make sure your footwear is appropriate for your activity (you’ll need gaiters for snowshoe running, for example). Your excuses to skip your workout will diminish when you know that you’ll be feeling comfortably warm and protected, even in the harshest of outdoor environments.
7. Let Yourself Indulge a Little
“The occasional feast isn’t going to sabotage your progress toward your fitness or weight loss goals,” Thieme says. “The problem comes when you make a habit of overeating,” he says. Allowing yourself to indulge a little bit can help you maintain the balance between staying motivated to eat healthfully and giving up out of frustration.
Give yourself permission to have some fun, occasionally indulge in your favorite treats, and don’t be too restrictive. The holidays are a time for a celebration, after all! Just be sure to limit the treats to a few specific nights or events, and remember that having one indulgent meal doesn’t mean that you’ve failed; on the contrary, it can be part of a balanced holiday eating plan.