Winter workout land

If cold weather is keeping you away from the gym, getting creative with your workouts will help you stay more active in winter.

If you’re starting to resemble the glistening ham that adorns your holiday table, it might be time to reconsider your winter workout regimen. Whether eggnog or stuffing is your kryptonite, fighting the bulge this holiday season is easier than you might think.

First, it’s important to note that notions regarding holiday weight gain are based more on myth than fact. The New England Journal of Medicine conducted a study in 2000 showing that on average, adults gain a relatively small 1-2 pounds during the holiday season. While this isn’t necessarily permission to knock out a tray of crescent rolls, it should help you enjoy your holidays without fear of packing on pounds. However, studies have also shown that overweight groups are most at risk for significant gains, making winter an even more critical time for those trying to maintain or lose weight.

When excuses get in the way

As temperatures drop, the list of excuses for avoiding the gym seems to grow. People cite lack of time as their top reason for avoiding physical exertion, especially when juggling college coursework and holiday gatherings. Fortunately for those short on time, the rule of “quality over quantity” applies to exercise. Try sticking to strength-building activities like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), circuit workouts, weight lifting and other resistance-based workouts. If you like a combination of strength and cardio, taking a dip in the university pool is a nice (and free) way to keep away from the cold while still getting your sweat on.

Phone a friend

There’s a reason Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? allows its contestants the opportunity to call a friend in moments of panic: having a buddy makes things easier, whether you’re answering a trivia question or digging deep for motivation to hit the gym. Recruit a friend and commit to a certain number of workouts together each week. This adds a level of accountability, especially for runners, bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. When it’s pouring rain and 40 degrees, workout buddies make it much easier to layer-up and head out into the elements.

Heat things up

Perhaps you’re among the many who are motivated to exercise, but can’t seem to conquer the chill. If brisk air sends you running back to the nest of blankets you’ve made on the sofa, hot yoga might be the answer for you. With temperatures upwards of 90 degrees, warm air hugs you when you walk in the room, providing a welcoming environment to build strength and flexibility. Besides, where else do you get to take a mini nap at the end of your workout?

Many gym rats scoff at the thought of stretching for an hour, not realizing that yoga can be both physically and mentally taxing. (Note: as a former cardio junkie, it only took one ass-kicking for me to change my mind about yoga forever.) If you’re skeptical, consider giving class a try. Yoga compliments other sports and activities by improving core strength, flexibility and proprioception (body awareness). Most studios are eager to boost their numbers, offering free trial memberships to new students. Many studios also offer community classes at heavily discounted and donation-based rates, allowing students to pay on a sliding scale.

Consult the internet super highway

If you just can’t find the motivation to leave the refuge of your favorite reclining spot, there are lots of ways to get active within the comfort of home. Type in “home workouts” to Pinterest or YouTube and you’ll find a deluge of quick routines that require little to no equipment. Whether you’re looking for a 15-minute circuit to crush your abs or 20 exercises you can do with a kettlebell, Internet inspiration helps add variety to your routine and get you moving when you’d otherwise stay put. Try adding exercises between episodes of a Netflix binge, or maxing out reps during commercial breaks.

When all else fails

If you’re still not convinced that you should leave the warmth of your bed to make a sunrise yoga class, here are a few last-ditch efforts to make you slightly more active this holiday season:

  • Walk to the next bar instead of calling an Uber. It might be frosty, but think of how much energy you can burn hustling to get your next drink.
  • Buy something from the mall instead of online. Walking from store to store boosts your heart rate and step count. Sitting at the computer… not so much. Bonus point for parking in the remote corners of the lot and trudging your way to the storefront.
  • Chop down your Christmas tree. If decorating a tree is part of your winter routine, consider channeling Paul Bunyan while supporting your local farm.

Bottom line: there are plenty of ways to stay active this winter. While research has debunked myths of holiday weight gain, all the benefits of physical activity are still true. Try something new this winter and get ahead of the chill.