Health

How to stay active during the cold winter months

Would you rather hibernate than exercise in winter? Try these simple tricks to avoid falling in a rut
By Nara SandbergPublished on 12/03/2018 at 10:37 AM EST

A “case of the Mondays” doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Research conducted by Johns Hopkins found that people are more likely to use Mondays as the day to start fresh and kick off health goals, such as eating plans or exercise regimes. And based on that research, The Monday Campaigns was founded. The non-profit public health initiative is associated with Johns Hopkins and both Columbia and Syracuse Universities. You may know their first campaign—Meatless Monday—but they’ve started a number of other programs.

We’ve partnered with The Monday Campaigns to bring Grok Nation readers new info each month to have healthier Mondays. Read the past Monday posts here.

When the weather turns cold, it’s hard to be motivated to leave your house, let alone go to the gym or go for a run. A longtime advocate for Move It Monday, Kim Watkins is the head coach at inSHAPE Fitness, a certified Personal Trainer, Pre/Post Natal Coach through the American Council on Exercise, and a certified distance running coach through the Road Runners Club of America. Kim and her team focus on providing clients with exercise programs that meet their needs, abilities and schedules. They hear often from clients that when it’s cold outside, it becomes even more challenging for them to stay motivated.

With that in mind, we asked Kim questions about how to stay active this winter and keep up with #MoveItMonday.

How do you recommend staying motivated to exercise when it’s cold outside?
Use your movement time to get together with friends or your partner. A lot of couples set New Year’s Resolutions around their health together, but no one says that you have to wait for the first of January. As the temperatures start to dip, and you want to stay indoors, turn on some tunes and start moving.

How do you recommend exercising for the cold winter months?
First, break your exercise down into three chunks of time, about ten minutes each, spread throughout the day. In the morning segment, you focus on compound movements that will stimulate muscle function and boost your heart rate.

The “Burpeeta” is a low-impact burpee, and it is an exercise that you can do in your pajamas right next to your bed. Amazingly, adults have a really hard time lowering the body to the floor, which is why this move can even be performed using a stable chair or bench. Lower your body, hinging at the hips, keeping the chest high and shoulders in line with the ears. Place your hands on the floor (or chair or bench) and walk out the feet so that you are in a plank. Then walk your feet back up until you return to the squatted position and stand up slowly. You don’t even need to do that many of them. In fact, it’s better to time yourself for 2-3 minutes and focus on your technique.

The second segment of time takes place at the office, so you probably have to fit it in whenever you can. Just make sure that you find at least 20 minutes during your day to move your body vigorously. It doesn’t have to all happen at once, but it does need to happen each day.

The final segment should take place before bedtime and is focused on relaxing the body and preparing it for sleep. Bed bound stretches to align the spine, stretch out the back of the legs, and loosen up the neck are a perfect way to close out a busy day.

How can people use Monday to keep exercise or get back on track in the winter?
The start of the work week resets your priorities and schedules. This is why Mondays are so helpful for your physical care, especially if you know that you have a big week ahead. The stakes are high at work, which is why you want to head into the office ready to go. Mondays are also a great metric day. Whether you want to assess your balance, the number of seconds that you can hold a plank, or your ability to touch your toes, measure something on Mondays to track your physical progress.

What are some tips for walking a Monday Mile when it’s freezing outside?
Snow skiers and ice skaters do their thing in the winter. They bundle up and head out in almost any weather. The first steps may not feel great, but winter recreation can also be exhilarating! The lungs have to work harder to process air, but the effect can really boost your spirit. Look at the Monday Mile like a cold weather event. Prepare for it, dress appropriately, know your route, and don’t think about the cold. The Winter Monday Mile only lasts for 10-15 minutes but makes a positive difference that could last the rest of your day and throughout the week.

If you don’t belong to a gym or health club, what are some easy exercises you can do at home?
Few people make it to the gym to work out as much as experts suggest we need. And, more evidence suggests that gym-goers don’t really enjoy the health outcomes that everyone really wants. So let yourself off the hook. Workouts at home are a sustainable way to take good care of your body, and as Mother Nature arranged it, your body and gravity are really all that you need to get the job done.

In addition to the “Burpeeta,” a short but comprehensive routine includes movements that tax the entire body, focusing on functional strength, stability, and range of motion. Squats are great, and they can be fancied up really easily with kicks, lunges and jumps. Don’t worry about reps; set a timer, take a few deep breathes, and go.

Planks are vital and should be a part of your home routine every day! Planks are also easily dressed up with variations on your leg position, hip movement, and up/down motion. Planks can also be adjusted down to an easier level, by using a bench or rest on the knees instead of your feet. Finally, spending time on all fours, in quadruped is another great movement series for the range of motion in your back. Moving from cat to camel to child’s pose will help keep your core flexible.

What are a few more tips that may be helpful to people who don’t exercise regularly?
Pick five exercises that you can do in your home. Virtually anything is acceptable and works as a starting point. Spend one minute doing each move. Don’t invest more time than you know you will have on your busiest morning. Just five minutes. Five days a week. If you can hit a boot camp once a week or take a spin class, do that, too. Your five-move platform isn’t about weight loss or fitting into a little black dress. It’s about behavior. Once you learn these moves and begin to practice them, you can think about a measurable goal. But until then, don’t worry so much about the results. You work hard. You want to enjoy your life when you aren’t working. And exercise isn’t fun. Taking care of your body will get easier but the baby steps that you can take each day will make a difference if you persist.

For more fitness tips and to learn more about the Monday Mile, visit MoveItMonday.org.

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