You step outside to 25 degrees and 20 mph winds. Is that a helpful motivator for you to continue the walk you’ve been keeping up with over the last 6 months? Not really. Taking on the chilly weather can be a big barrier for regular exercise throughout the winter months. Where are we going to find the motivation to get moving then, regardless of whether you are exercising inside or outside?
First things first, think less about the energy you are expending or calories you are burning by exercising. Rather, be more mindful of non-scale benefits to exercise. I am thinking along the lines of improving your sleep, less shortness of breath, a better mood, more focus and energy, etc. This is self-care and such an important piece of why exercise is helpful for us all.
If you know that you will be more productive and less stressed if you were to begin your day for a walk, does that motivate you to wake up just a bit early to squeeze in a short walk? Probably more than viewing that same exercise as punishment or a penance for what you’d eaten the day before!
One other piece to the exercise puzzle is figuring out what to do for exercise. Of course, there is always walking or weight training. And for some, these are just the ticket. For others, not so much. To feel more motivated to want to exercise, you must find a type of exercise that you genuinely enjoy.
How about this, what comes to mind when I say, “joyful movement?” Dance, swimming or roller blading? Perfect. Get creative to find a type of exercise that, again, is more for joy and less for punishment.
Lastly, challenge any all-or-nothing type of thoughts related to exercise. Most have very high expectations for the exercise they will do. And often, these high expectations are leading to even lower motivation to get started. By keeping exercise flexible and realistic, you will likely feel much less overwhelmed by the idea of exercising and more motivated to get going.
Here’s an example for you. Someone loves jogging, especially outside. After he is finished, he feel more energized, less overwhelmed or anxious and overall happy. Summer turned to fall though, and now, it is cold outside. Rather than giving up jogging altogether (all-or-nothing type of thinking), he opts to bundle up with layers of warm clothes and continue jogging. When he begins to feel uncomfortably cold, he is finished exercising. Each day, he may jog for a different amount of time or at a different intensity. This permission for flexible exercise keeps him from feeling overwhelmed and is more realistic to maintain.
Is there anything you’ve found that helps you to feel more motivated to exercise? Share below!
Of course, please talk with your primary care physician if you have any concerns with exercise or to determine which exercise options are best for you.
Gretchen Stroberg, RD, LD, CDCES
Registered Dietitian & Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist