Dark nights can dim motivation and the cold weather can prompts thoughts of conserving energy, getting ready for winter. If you start to experience such thoughts, this is completely normal. However, it is important to be aware that they conflict with exercise goals and, with Christmas on horizon and all the extra food eaten, maintaining activity and health is a priority. So how should you exercise and keep your motivation?
Firstly, if you can exercise at midday during winter, in daylight and preferably somewhere pleasant such as a park or forest, then this is ideal. Walking or running is what is needed – there are benefits from exercising in nature.
Second, if not, then why not find an exercise class you can do? Working with others can make exercise feel easier- when we synchronise our movements it appears to make the exercise easier to do – this has been found in many activities including rowing and running.
Third, exercise when watching something really interesting on TV. I enjoy watching football and will cycle at an easy intensity for 45 minutes whilst watching a premier league game 4pm on a Sunday – with a coffee in the bar afterwards, the session is both exercise and a social with the good Mrs Lane.
All of the above tips have an ingredient to make the exercise enjoyable, whether nature, a class, or something additional of interest. Plan your exercise, think about what makes you happy and do this at the same time as you exercise if you can.
In winter, and the dark nights, be prepared for some traps – it’s hard to go out and exercise in the dark. To overcome come this or try to, exercise immediately you get home from work or on the way home. Once your bum hits the sofa, it will be hard to get out again as relaxation mode will kick in.
Make it easy on yourself by preparing your gym bag and kit beforehand and so all you need to do is pick it up. If you anticipate the motivational challenge, don’t add to that by having to spend time looking for stuff; all that would do is provide a signal to give up the exercise goal for today.
Andy Lane is Professor of Sport and Learning at the University of Wolverhampton's Faculty of Education, Health and Wellbeing