If you’re finding it hard to commit to the gym during the cooler months then it may be time to give your morning routine a little winter makeover. Now this doesn’t mean adding an extra blanket and heater, no. We’re sorry to disappoint but the aim is to get you out of bed sooner and not to make it more tempting for you to hit the snooze button again. The good news however is that your reluctance to jump out of bed during the winter has less to do with your motivation and more to do with science and the naturally occurring chemical processes in your body. So before you start being too hard on yourself about those missed classes and late starts, why not take these steps to regain your mornings in winter. Start by getting to know your circadian rhythm, move onto investing in a different kind of light bulb and finish by eating for energy. It’s time to make small changes for big gains, because your health and summer body deserves it.
Recreate natural sunlight
One of the most effective ways to beat the winter blues and to reclaim your mornings at the gym may come down to sunlight, or mimicking that glorious light that enters your room come September. If you find that your energy and mood levels shift during the cooler months, you are not alone. While this may come down to several factors, it has less to do with a lack of motivation and more to do with your body’s natural circadian rhythm, also referred to as your internal body clock. This internal body clock is regulated by our pineal gland and runs on a different kind of battery, one supplied by sunlight, which makes winter mornings particularly hard for the body to adjust to.
Once referred to as the ‘third eye, our pineal gland is responsible for regulating our body’s natural sleep and wake cycle. Located deep inside the brain, it regulates the secretion of melatonin, the hormone responsible for promoting our body’s state of hibernation. During the night, the pineal gland prompts the body to release melatonin, in turn putting our body into a natural state of rest and sleep. On the contrary, when we are exposed to natural sunlight our bodies are reminded that it is daytime and the secretion of melatonin by this gland is inhibited. With natural sunlight delayed during winter, our bodies find it more difficult to wake from hibernation in the morning.
This is where ‘wake up lights’ can step in to help the body wake up more naturally. By allowing timers to be set, these lights are specifically designed to mimic sunlight and to allow the body to wake up more naturally. Another alternative to this are full spectrum light bulbs which let you mimic natural sunlight in the morning, in turn prompting your body to inhibit it’s melatonin secretion sooner.
Recognise the importance of goal setting
We know that summer bodies are made in winter so the time for setting goals is now. Whether you are looking to maintain your weight during the cooler months, to tone up or to reach new fitness goals, making a plan has never been more important. Start by identifying your WHY, the very reason that drives you to succeed. If you don’t know why you are getting out of bed during a rainy winter’s morning to hit the gym, then the desire to sleep in will override all else.
Set a goal and leave it as a reminder on places like your bathroom mirror to remind yourself why you are waking up and going for that run rather than sitting by the heater. It is really important to know WHAT you are trying to accomplish and to map your way of getting there. If your goal is to stay active during winter, set dates in your diary and give yourself rewards when you reach your milestones. This may mean a new pair of runners after a month or those new pair of jeans you have been eyeing off.
Take Vitamin D and other energy boosting supplements
One of the most common symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency is fatigue, which means your lack of desire to stick to your normal exercise routine during the cooler months may be connected to your Vitamin D levels. A vitamin naturally produced when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet sunlight, our levels can drop quite significantly during winter, which makes a Vitamin D supplement recommended by many nutritionists. Omega-3 fatty acids offer a host of benefits that read longer than a short essay, however they become increasingly beneficial during winter as they help reduce inflammation and help reinforce the immune system. This means no missed gym classes due to a runny nose. The final hero in the winter supplements repertoire is zinc. While a lack of sunlight in the morning makes it difficult for us to get out of bed, the sun setting later also makes it more difficult for us to switch off and go to sleep. This is where zinc may step in to assist the body in maintaining restful sleep by balancing our hormones. Implementing these three supplements in your winter diets may help in buffering all those side effects that come with our body’s internal clock adjusting to a new routine.
Take your exercise indoors
If your usual exercise roster revolves around the great outdoors, it may be time to give your routine a winter makeover. While some may enjoy running in the crisp air or taking a hike amongst the morning fog, for most of us, the desire to exercise in the cold is not high on the agenda. So rather than letting your commitment to fitness take a dip, why not change up your routine instead. Winter offers the perfect opportunity to trial a new gym or class such as Pilates, Yoga and even boxing. If you prefer to exercise on your own, you may consider setting up a space at home. With the World Wide Web home to endless tutorials, fitness classes and fitness plans, all you really need is a little nook, an exercise mat and your favourite music to get you in the mood. And just in case you were going to use time as an excuse, we have come up with a simple, time-effective and easy to follow Happy Way online fitness plan for you here.
Quit the snooze button
For most of us, hitting the snooze button several times before we get out of bed is considered a sacred part of our morning routine. Call it the placebo effect, but those extra 10 minutes between the sheets feel just that much sweeter. However, if you really want to continue your fitness routine throughout winter, you may want to consider quitting the habit. By disrupting your natural sleep cycle, snoozing is in fact contributing to that groggy morning feeling, one which is even harder to shake off during the cooler months. Instead, why not place your phone on the opposite side of the room, where the snooze button is out of reach. Once you have jumped out of bed to switch it off, use those extra 10-15 minutes to stretch and to help your body wake up more naturally.
Swap to a protein-heavy breakfast
Here is a fun fact; we naturally crave more carbohydrates in winter. As our serotonin levels drop due to less exposure to sunlight our body begins to look for sources in other places and what makes our serotonin levels rise? You guessed it, the highly processed white stuff. So while it may be tempting to reach for toasties, waffles, cereals and even pancakes in the morning, this may be contributing to your overall energy slump by the time the clock hits 11am. Now, we’re not saying quit carbohydrates all together but we are saying give them a protein makeover. Protein takes longer to digest in the body, which means it will help sustain your energy levels at the gym and throughout the rest of the day. So if you’re really craving pancakes and something warm, and that is the trade off for going to the gym in the morning, then give them a protein makeover.
Happy Way nutritionist Malissa Fedele has given your favourite breakfast an energy boosting makeover below. Try these out and watch your energy levels increase one delicious bite at a time.