You probably don’t look at your workout plan on a yearly schedule unless you’re a professional athlete. Generally speaking, people plan their workouts either by week or by day. For example, you might know that you’re going to do Pilates on Monday and that you’ll work in some strength training on Thursday, but you’re not likely planning your workouts for June when it’s February. However, you might start thinking ahead after reading this post!
If you’re living in New England like me, the seasons will influence your workouts and eating styles. For example, in the winter, you are more likely to seek higher calorie “comfort” foods. You’re also more likely to choose the couch and a cup of hot cocoa over a long walk and fresh squeezed vegetable juice. However, in the summer, your preferences might be reversed. Even your mood will change throughout the year.
According to Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center and associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, people gain an average of five to seven pounds in the winter. But don’t fret! There are ways we can avoid, or even reverse this trend.
Believe it or not, the snowflakes are not literally packing on your winter pounds. Winter weight gain is largely the result of reduced exercise and increased calorie intake and less due to mood changes. So if you were trying to blame the cold weather and the dark skies for those extra few pounds, stop right there!
So how can we battle the winter bulge? My answer is Periodization! An organized approach to training that involves progressive cycling of ones training program during a specific period of time (results may vary person to person). Cycling your workouts based on the seasons can be extremely beneficial to achieving your ultimate fitness goals. Workout extra 30-60 minutes per week during the winter months of November-March and once April comes around, cut down your gym time and focus on getting outdoors. You can use your feet instead of your car more often in the warmer months, focusing on walking or biking from place to place rather than driving. Not only will this cut down your time spent at the gym, it will also improve your mood.
Now, when you’re spending those extra minutes in the gym, I want you doing the right moves. Too much cardio can leave you hungry and craving more calories than your body actually needs. Sound familiar? Instead of killing it on the treadmill for 60 minutes, work in some Pilates and extra strength training during your winter gym time. This will keep your metabolism revved up without all the extra hunger.
During the winter months, I recommend starting with one extra 30 minute workout per week. Reevaluate in 3-4 weeks; if you are feeling good about your body, keep this extra 30 minutes of exercise in your workout routine. If this additional 30 minute workout is still not leaving you feeling good about your body then increase your extra workout time to 45-60 minutes per week. Again, reevaluating your progress in 3-4 weeks. Continue to evaluate every 3-4 weeks during the cold winter months, but make sure to only add the amount necessary to see results, as to not hit an exercise plateau. Generally, I prefer these workouts to be additive throughout the week by doing a few under 12 minute workouts a few days per week. You might prefer adding in one longer workout. Try different things and see what works best for you
If you need inspiration for 30-60 minute workouts, give one of my free workouts a try. There are some under 12 minute options like Arm Sculpt and 12 Minutes in Workout, as well as longer options like a class at the gym such as Body Shop, Trx or Circuit Training class at your gym. Just make sure to chose workouts that build strength and get your heart rate up.
Also, make sure you’re eating more lean protein and veggies and cut down on sweets, breads, and pasta. I recommend that you measure your success by how you feel in your clothes or by measuring inches rather than by the number on the scale. Weight fluctuates regularly based on hydration, time of day, and where you are in your lady cycle. Weighing yourself daily or even weekly can stress you out and mess with your mental health. If you are determined to weigh yourself, only do it once a month. Since most people tend to workout and watch what they eat more during the week, I recommend you weigh yourself on Friday morning, after your lady cycle and of course naked.
1. Sleep 8 hours per night. Sleep can help with mood and decrease cravings. this can help decrease the likely hood to have mindless eating when you are in the house more because its too cold to go outside.
2. Have a plan. Make a date to go to the grocery store every week and fill your fridge with healthy foods. Take the time before going to the grocery store to think of what you want to eat for the week and include healthy snacks that are quick and easy. A healthy snack takes a little bit more thought and preparation, check my facebook page for more ideas about healthy snacks and foods on the go.
3. Outdoor winter sports. Although I love warmer summer activities, try skiing, snow boarding, or snow shoeing to be more active in the winter.
4. Build Exercise into your lifestyle. I personally don’t like the cold, so I make sure to layer up and ride my bike to work 5 days a week and/or walk my dog. When possible, take a few extra short walks throughout the day, especially those of you who sit most of the day at work. If you drive to work but live a short distance from public transportation, opt for the walk to the train/bus and then to work one or two days a week. Your hip flexors will thank you!
In case you were wondering, I am committed to working out 3-4 days a week in the gym in the winter and I drop down to 2-3 days per week in the gym in the summer.