When first asked to write on the topic getting ready for the winter, I thought it was a strange topic, as I don’t think about how the winter affects my training. For me it’s just another month in the calendar, but after little more thought it’s actually a very important factor in regards to exercise. Many people are seasonal trainers, loving to train outside and play sports in the parks during the summer, as soon as the darkness and cold arrives people start to hibernate, and ultimately reduce the amount of exercise they do.
I’m lucky, I work in a gym, and I have specific fitness goals throughout the year, at the moment I’m training for 2 boxing fights over the next month. My goals are non-aesthetic and more sports/competition related. However, the majority of peoples training goals are to train to look good in the summer and in the winter these goals are not such a huge focus, and people tend to come up with reasons not to exercise. People then wait for the next spring and summer to arrive to start exercising again.
We are all creatures of habit; habits become more engrained when the majority of the population share that same habit. So I say to you: don’t follow trends, break the rules be different. Next time winter arrives, instead of thinking of reasons not to exercise, think of the reasons why you should exercise and I bet you come up with more reason for the latter.
Set yourself new goals for the winter. Focus on strength training, especially if you’ve trained with free weights. (So for example if you were doing squats/deadlifts/bench do 4sets of 5reps of your 1Rep Max with 3mins rest between sets). I like the quote from Brett Jones (Strength coach) to help understand the importance of strength training, ‘Strength is like a glass. Everything else (i.e. endurance, cardio, fat burning, injury prevention, hypertrophy etc) is the liquid inside the glass. The bigger the glass the more of everything else you can do’.
If the above on strength training sounds like a daunting prospect, focus on body weight, functional, multi joint movements, such as chin ups, press ups, TRX rows, single leg work (split squats, lunges) and squat based movements. With an aim to then be able to commence heavy strength training 3-4months down the line. If you can’t handle your own body weight you shouldn’t be lifting any heavy weights.
You can also focus on any mobility issues you may have that will prevent you from performing exercises through a full range of movement. Spend time stretching and doing soft tissue work with the foam roller, or even take up yoga. Most people who exercise regularly never spend enough time stretching.
If you like training outside do more interval training, short and sharp sessions. You can try interval methods such as tabatta (20secs work hard 10 secs rest). You will get more bang for buck with this type of training than running outside in the cold and wet for an hour.
During the Summer the majority of people’s training goals focus on looking good, in the winter these goals are not such a huge focus and people tend to come up with reasons not to exercise. So, let me give you a list of reasons to show you the benefits if you carrying on training hard through the winter, and if you start setting yourself goals that aren’t only aesthetic goals:
- Firstly, you can enjoy your Christmas indulgences at the end of December and not worry about putting on more weight, because you’re already in good shape so 3-4 days of bad eating won’t have a massive effect on you.
- Secondly, you won’t get drawn into the mad New Years resolution fitness trend which everyone does, and pretty much everyone who does falls back to their old bad habits by February/March. For you, January 1st will just be another month, another day in your training calendar like any other day in the year. Exercise has become the norm for you.
- Thirdly, because you’ve been training hard throughout the winter, when its comes your summer holiday in May/June time you wont have to worry about dieting and slimming down, because you’ve maintained a healthy weight and high fitness levels.
- Finally, for the men who want to start doing beach weights at the beginning of the summer, because you’ve been doing heavy strength training over the winter, all the high reps, muscle building, hypertrophy exercise you did beforehand are a lot easier now. You can lift more weight for more reps, which equals – looking hench in a wife beater on the beach.
- If you’re still lacking motivation, go on youtube and watch Rocky style/Pumping Iron montage before your workout. It always works for me!
In summary, get ready for winter with strength training, working on mobility, doing high intensity training when outside, and thinking about the long term goals and rewards of training throughout the year to stay motivated.