Staying on Track with Winter Fitness by Dallas Jones, CPT, BKin

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 11.33.06 AMWe’re getting close to the Vancouver winter, which means it’s wet, cold, and dark! I love running and cycling outside in the summer, but I find it gets harder and harder to motivate myself to get outside and do my cardio when the weather turns. This is a common problem for a lot of people who enjoy outdoor activities and they find their number of active days really starts to decrease this time of year. So what should you do?

Switch up your exercise program! November is actually one of the best months to start a new one. A good exercise program needs the Three C’s: Consistency, Commitment, and Convenience. In my opinion consistency is the hardest of the three. You need a solid routine so that you can add exercise to your schedule and form the habit, and this makes November a great month to do it. The kids have settled into school, the summer holidays and visitors have stopped, and there are no holidays where you are supposed to eat lots of food.  So how do you make the most of your November and create an awesome exercise program that will keep you keep fit all the way through Christmas and into the New Year?

Here are some thoughts and suggestions to help you create a program that works:


Find the right Motivators (Commitment)

Goal setting and motivation can complement each other and yield spectacular results if you set the right goals. Society has done a great job of teaching us to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound). But in order for an exercise program to stick, you have to make the right goals.

We find motivation from both negative and positive things. Negative motivators help us avoid pain, damage, and guilt. They can be very powerful at the start, but they wear off once the stimulus is gone.

On the other hand, positive motivators give us pleasure, which reinforces our desire to continue the activity. So you have to take a second and think about the values that give you pleasure, and start setting some goals from there. If you value achievement, learn a new sport or activity or register for a race or a fun active event. If you have kids or are just have a really busy life, maybe alone-time and relaxation give you pleasure so try one of the many types of yoga or walking or running in one of Vancouver’s beautiful parks. And if you love socializing, combine it with physical activity and join a group or exercise with a friend, which brings me to my next topic.


Get Some Support (Consistency/Commitment)

Seeing friendly faces, socializing, and having others to motivate you makes committing to an exercise plan so much easier.  Think about doing some of these things:

Get your friends to exercise with you, but make sure you say “Let’s do this every week, at this time” or more often.

If your friends are too busy or they can’t commit to regular exercise there’s tons of people out there that can. It’s always good to make new friends, especially ones with the same interests as you. Join a group exercise class. There are yoga classes, spin classes, running groups, walking and hiking groups, and many more. The great thing about classes and groups is that they are regularly scheduled (consistent) and there is always someone there to motivate you and tell you what to do.

The winter is also a great time for strength training. It’s indoors so it doesn’t matter what the weather is like and gyms are open long hours for your convenience. Everyone develops muscular imbalances from work and sports. If you do summer sports, the winter is perfect for strengthening, getting massage and working on your flexibility so that you are in peak condition for next summer’s activities. If you don’t know what to do, I highly recommend finding a personal trainer so that you can learn the proper technique. Also, having regularly scheduled sessions and a friendly face helps you commit to your exercise program.


Fitting It All In (Convenience)

The number one reason why people don’t exercise is always “not enough time.” People have priorities often they put them ahead of exercise, pushing exercise back in the day until it becomes “too late to exercise, I’ll just do it tomorrow,” which is why scheduling your exercise into your routine is so important.

The Canadian physical activity guidelines for 18-69 year olds advise  you to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more, as well as do muscle and bone strengthening activities at least 2 days per week. I always hear professionals in my field saying things like “It’s just 30 minutes a day, how hard is that?” and I’ve never liked it for a couple reasons. Firstly, it’s making you feel guilty, which is negative motivation and doesn’t help associate fun with physical activity. And secondly, because they are lying to you about the time required to exercise.  The quickest way you can get that 30 minutes in are activities like a jog from your house, or the elliptical in at the gym.  Then there’s the 5 minutes to change and get ready, skip the warm up, 5 minute cool down and stretch, and if you are insanely fast, a 10 minute shower and change to get out the door or back to work. That is an extra 20 minutes, or 66% more time to do that 30 minutes of physical activity. And if you have to travel somewhere to exercise, the time required in your schedule can easily be 1-3 hours.

I don’t want to say all this to scare you, I just want to bring it to your attention so you don’t feel ashamed that you can’t always fit in a “measly 30 minutes of exercise” into your busy life. And this way you can plan accordingly and figure out a way to schedule your life efficiently. Here are some thoughts:

–        If you shower before work, exercise before work so you only have to have one shower a day

–        Cross two things off your list with one trip, find a gym or fitness class close to work or the grocery store, or another place you go often

–        Remember that you don’t always have to do 30-60 minutes every time. For example, say you pressed snooze one too many times and have to leave for work in 50 minutes, and it takes you 30 minutes to get ready. You had planned to go for a 30 minute jog, but don’t just scrap the whole thing, you have 20 minutes, go out for those 20 minutes!

Staying fit this winter doesn’t have to be a burden!  Stick to the Three C’s and you’ll be in prime condition for next summer’s activities!


Dallas Jones operates Get Fit, an active lifestyle training studio in Marpole. If you want to learn more about how to increase the physical activity in your life, check out his website here. Or join his Nordic Walking Meetup group every Sunday at 10AM here. 

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