Take a moment to think six months into the future‒it’s April 25, 2022 (Happy New Years by the way!). Hopefully, masks and COVID are in our rearview mirror, the April showers are preparing us May flowers, and we are getting those first days where you really feel the sun on your shoulders and actually want to get outside. With all of these wonderful signs of spring, most of us (well maybe most of us over 20) run into a familiar, yet uncomfortable realization. That t-shirt you looked great in last summer now feels a little snug, and you are really coming to terms with how much less material your swimming suit has than your hoodie. This leads to many people taking on a crash diet or extreme exercise routine to get the “beach body” they want, or just to get happy with how they feel again.
It’s incredibly hard to keep our activity levels the same during the summer and winter; even sunny Georgia becomes slightly less sunny in the middle of winter. Those of us who rely on the outdoors for running or team sports suddenly find that our environment is the toughest thing to overcome. Similarly, little errands or trips to class that we might take on foot suddenly become short drives instead; not to mention that as the days get shorter and shorter, everyone finds themselves inside and on the couch more and more. This means that both our active exercise time, as well as the little forms of passive exercise we get throughout the day, both drop off right around the same time that we take on a Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas cookies and New Year’s champagne. These fun times are coming, but that also means it’s time to do some inventory about how the changing seasons will change your behaviors.
Keeping this in mind ahead of time is the key to avoiding those crash diets or a spring of intense workouts. Make a clear plan going into the winter about how you are going to maintain your activity levels. As for your active exercise, consider whether you need to find replacement activities or whether you need to focus more on daily willpower. If you feel like you can safely maintain outdoor activities like running, biking, hiking, climbing trees, or sports with just a few extra layers on, then really concentrate on not letting the weather get you down. Yes, there are days you should stay inside, like after a rare ice storm or when the temperatures are really below freezing, but otherwise you must focus on not letting some cold air and heavy layers gradually wear down your good exercise habits. Getting back to a healthy habit is much harder than letting one go, so never let the winter sap the inertia you have that makes you proud. Alternatively, if you are unable to keep up those activities for any given reason, then you might need to explore indoor solutions such as the Life University Fitness Center, other gym memberships, yoga classes, spin classes, or even invest in a few weights and devices at home. Obviously, taking a moment to consider if you are consistent and happy with your diet as well can be beneficial, but here we are especially thinking about habits we might lose seasonally.
The other exercise that we lose from just spending free time outside, doing errands on foot or walking a dog can be harder to make up. First, you might have a slightly guilty conscience if you miss going to the gym, but the way winter parasitically saps our activity levels and swaps that for time under a blanket is much harder to consciously account for. Again, there is no problem or difficulty here that can’t be met with a little planning. For instance, there has been a growing trend in recent years of trying to replace seated work at a desk with work standing up. This might have some benefits for your back, but it is also something you could explore specifically for the purpose of being on your feet more in the winter. Lifestyle changes like these, and they don’t have to be huge, can add up particularly if you are consistent with them over time.
Again, think ahead to one year from now. You can either be looking back on a few months of coming back from runs with your face red from the wind and small moments where you made the choice to stay moving rather than start a movie, or you could be dreading the work you have to put in across the spring to feel confident in your summer attire. Each path takes work, but one is far easier because you are maintaining constant control and are able to shape how your winter goes. Let us here at Life U help you keep up those health habits with all of the resources at our Life University Fitness Center, the healthy choices in our dining halls and the community of those around you who are likewise committed to living a vitalistic lifestyle.