If you’re suffering a lack of motivation when it comes to getting active lately, don’t worry, as you’re not the only one. Even personal trainers like myself suffer from this sometimes.
Waikato is famous for its frosty mornings and bone chilling temperatures. Unlike other parts of New Zealand that get the benefits of the beautiful snowfall, we just get left scraping ice off our windscreens with an eftpos card, and for some of us that’s about as active as we’ll get this winter.
If you’re anything like me, you probably didn’t choose the cold winter mornings as a reason to live in Waikato. Having grown up here though, my whanau are nearby and it’s where I’ve studied, started my career and built my life.
Even though I love living here, I find myself battling the same issue every year – the winter blues. Because we are good at justifying how we feel, people may not realise that the winter blues exist.
We know winter is cold, we know motivation drops and we know it’s a lot harder to get up in the morning and exercise, so we justify it as a social norm and spend the winter months feeing less than ideal because it’s what we’re accustomed to.
The winter blues can appear in different ways. You may face a minor lack of motivation due to the cold, or you may not want to trade in the comfort of your bed for a morning run.
You could also be on the other end of the spectrum like myself and suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), more commonly known as seasonal depression (yes – it’s an actual type of depression).
Now don’t get me wrong, if you don’t like the cold, that doesn’t mean you suffer from SAD, but SAD is a type of depression that onsets during the winter months and affects exercise adherence.
It didn’t occur to me that I was suffering from seasonal depression until I started writing this article. I went to list the symptoms and realised I was displaying most of them – depressed mood and demeanour, lack of energy, change in sleep patterns, weight gain, moodiness, stress and anxiousness.
So, whether you are more committed to your heater than your personal trainer or you keep telling yourself “I’ll work on my summer body tomorrow”, it’s time to drop the excuses, get your motivation back, conquer those chilly mornings and beat the winter blues – your way.
Like anything in life, I find taking the bull by the horns is the best way to start. Admitting you don’t like winter, you’re feeling lazy, unmotivated and don’t want to exercise may sound a bit harsh, but it is exactly where I recommend you begin.
Sometimes we have to call ourselves out, so that we can start moving forward. Once you’ve made these self-admissions, it will be a lot easier to make a behavioural change.
Here are my top tips for beating the winter blues and improving your overall wellbeing…
Become accountable, not doubtable:
Accountability is huge when it comes to setting goals and achieving them. It can be achieved in many ways, so it’s all about finding the right way for you.
Keep accountable by telling a significant person in your life what you are trying to achieve, then ask them for support.
If this doesn’t work for you, then joining a training group, boot camp or getting a personal trainer may be more suitable.
While there is a cost, I know I certainly don’t like throwing money away – so paying for an accountability service may be just what you need to keep motivated.
Do what you love, when you love:
If you have a style or type of training that you love, then stick to it over the winter months. If there is a barrier for this, then find a way around it. I know a lot of people enjoy training outdoors but stop over winter as it’s cold.
Yes, it’s cold for a few minutes until you warm up, so find a way to keep warm until you’ve acclimatised. If this means dressing up like an eskimo then so be it.
You have to do what you love, it is so important for your mental state and overall wellness.
Set yourself up for success, not failure:
Many people try to make drastic changes due to daylight saving and the decrease in temperature, i.e. time of day they train.
However, this can be a hindrance rather than beneficial. To succeed I recommend sticking to what you know works for you.
If for some reason this isn’t an option, then brainstorm some solutions, e.g. talk to your employer and see if you can extend your lunch break for a gym visit, explaining you will return more alert, energised and productive.
Try something new, that calls to you:
If what you love isn’t working, then maybe now is the time to try something new. Something you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t.
Exercise comes in many shapes and forms, and it’s great to challenge ourselves in new ways – so bite the bullet and go for it. Seeing as it is so cold lately, why not try Hot Yoga – a full body workout in a heated room?
I hope some of these tips help you to conquer the winter blues, set goals, find motivation and get back into your training. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so think about what is making it hard for you to find the motivation to be active and come up with some remedies – then trial and error until you succeed.
If you think that you are suffering from SAD, then please reach out and talk to someone. It’s so important to get help if you need it and there is always someone who can relate and empathise with your situation.
A good place to start is talking with your GP who can help you find the right way to overcome this.