Health: How to stay fit in winter

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Here’s a fact for every man who says: “I will eat what I like this Christmas and then get fit and healthy again come January”. This rarely happens. In fact, the science tells us that for the vast majority of people, the weight you gain in the winter, will still be with you come summer.

Sorry to burst that bubble, but you will thank me next summer when you have to take your shirt off at the beach for the first time!

Christmas isn’t the only winter pitfall. Longer nights and shorter days mess with our circadian rhythms, colder days make us crave fattier foods and nobody relishes leaving the house to go to the gym when the wind and rain are rampant. It’s no wonder studies say that the average weight gain per person is somewhere around two to seven pounds over the winter months.

In my many years working in high performance fitness, both as a Marine and then a Personal Trainer, I have seen the benefits of a good plan to tackle the winter fitness roadblocks, so here are a few tips for you.

Here’s the battle you face: Delicious, yet terribly unhealthy food is in your eye line wherever you go. It’s in the shops, on the TV screen, on the side of buses and even if you manage to avoid all that, it’s being sent to you in emails and text messages. You cannot hide from it, so you need something far more powerful to set your eyes on.

Keep your vision front and centre

That trump card is your ‘vision’. What does the ideal you look like? How does that version of you feel? What can the healthier version of you do that the overweight version can’t. Let me give you an example. One client was so overweight he couldn’t play with his kids. He envisioned a man that was running around, climbing trees and lifting his kids up in his arms. That vision helped him say no to the junk food that he was addicted to, even when it was everywhere. Why do you want to lose weight or get healthy? Write it down and win the war.

Create a bullet proof system

In management speak, there is something called the ‘path of least resistance’ i.e. getting the maximum output you want with minimum amount of time and effort required. Lets say, for example, you want to go to the gym before work three times per week. What does the path of least resistance look like in that context? Well, I would recommend you join a gym that you have to pass on the way to work (or that is close to your work). Then, the night before, I would recommend packing your gym bag, putting it in your car and laying out your gym clothes next to your bed. The result? All you have to do is roll out of bed, put those clothes on and get in the car. That will help you override the natural desire to stay in bed on those cold, dark mornings!

Remember the reward

Those who lose weight, do the right things consistently. When you battle the elements (and the hibernation temptation), you will get amazing results. Give yourself a pat on the back whenever someone tells you that you are nuts for getting up in the freezing cold and dark to go the gym. That, my friends, is a massive compliment!

Everything feels better when you do the right thing

Habits are created in a three-stage process: (1) Cue, (2) Response and (3) Reward. The third part is key. It’s why, for example, we get hooked on junk food. The reward is the temporary dopamine hit every time we take a delicious bite. That’s why, whenever a client of mine is trying to turn bad eating habits into good ones, I recommend a reward. For some that means, a cheat meal once a week or a Friday night movie on the couch. All of my clients say the same thing. The fact that they ate and trained well during the week made that reward so much more satisfying. This winter, I am not telling you to forgo all the Christmas treats. Just do it in moderation. If you eat healthily and exercise consistently throughout the week, enjoy a bag of chocolate coins on the Friday, it will feel so good and actually, it will help your health plan last the test of time.

Main photo credit: Towfiqu Barbhuiya Unsplash

Mark Ames

Ex-Marine, Mark Ames, is the director of Taunton-based Pure Performance Personal Training.
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