How To Stay Motivated To Work Out In Winter

Can't get yourself to come out from under the blanket? Here are three essential tricks to staying fit when it's cold (and very dark).
By Christine Vu
How To Stay Motivated To Work Out In Winter

Blistering weather, a jam-packed schedule and that sluggish feeling: it often feels like the universe is against you getting to know your gym shoes. “Some days I don't feel strong or motivated,” writes Toronto-based Nike trainer and nutrition consultant Paluna Santamaria on her Instagram page. “Some days I'm sad. Some days I wish life were different, and other days I feel the complete opposite.”

One can take solace in this because Paluna isn't just your average gym rat. She’s a fitness multi-hyphenate who's been in the game professionally for over 10 years. She’s an Agatsu trainer, competitive Olympic weightlifter and trained dancer. You’ll regularly find her at Pursuit OCR, Canada’s largest indoor obstacle course and training other trainers on kettle bells. So how does someone like her get out of a rut and back on track? She has three simple ways to stay motivated.

Set yourself up for success

Having to get up when it's pitch black outside can be rough even for the most seasoned morning person. That's why Paluna is adamant about prepping for the next day, the evening before. She’ll pack her gym bag and make a breakfast that’s high in protein and fat such as egg whites with almond butter and a green smoothie, a berry smoothie with a scoop of protein powder, or a healthy meatloaf (no cheese and sauce) and greens. It's smooth sailing the next morning.

"Trying to form good habits can be overwhelming and where I see people going wrong is when they try to change a lot of things at once. I tell people to start with one thing until that one thing becomes as natural to you as brushing your teeth."


She also recommends making time for exercise by treating it like an appointment so that it's harder to break the next time you're tempted to ditch spin class for after work cocktails.


"A lot of people have the mindset that if they don't go all out, they won't see results, but they should still give themselves credit for making even the smallest progress."


If you can't muster the will to head to the gym, compromise by doing something else like exercising at home. Paluna's choice alternative for the days she doesn't want to be at the gym is going to a small fitness class that focuses on the more fun and social aspects of exercise. “They are small classes which makes it easy to make friends while working really hard.”

On other days she lets the compromise be something as simple as going for a walk. "I just tell myself all I have to do is walk a few blocks and that's it. Most of the time, I end up doing more. Once I leave the house and my music is playing, I feel ready to go to the gym."

Change your dialogue

"If you change your dialogue, you can start to change your mindset."

One look outside can make getting to the gym seem harder than the work you’ll put in once you’re there. Piling on layers of clothes, warming up the car or bracing yourself for public transit in sub zero weather can bring on a lot of negativity. Get your motivation back by thinking about why you exercise in the first place. Realizing what a workout does for you whether it makes you feel stronger, puts you in a better mood, or extends your life expectancy, places more importance on the act and makes it a clear priority. Suddenly the obstacles start to melt away, at least in your mind.


Originally published January 2017; Updated February 2018.

Watch: Stretches to do before a workout


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