Be The Anti-Bear and Step Up Your Winter Exercise
Hands up: who kind of wishes they could hibernate?
Must be nice to be a bear. Once the weather starts to turn cold, they feast for a little while on the last berries and then curl up somewhere warm and dry until things aren’t so miserable.
On the other hand, bears also wake up looking and feeling awful, and it takes them all summer to recover.
As humans, we get what feels like the worst of all worlds. Not only do we not snooze our way through the seasons, but it’s still hard to do much more than survive. Rain? Ice? Cloudy days and freezing temperatures? Hardly the stuff exercise inspiration is made of.
This winter, try being the anti-bear.
Instead of starting from zero in the spring, you can wake up and feel the best you’ve ever felt.
1. Bears stay in. You should leave your cave.
As cozy as a cave might be for a bear, this is not the time for you to catch seasonal agoraphobia.
Whether or not you usually exercise at home (or on streets, or trails), look into your local fitness centres once winter rolls around. Gym, studio, rec centre, YMCA: it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s not your basement.
Not only are they well-heated and free of ice, just the act of showing up breaks through the lethargy that can keep us paralyzed if we stay at home. Everyone else is exercising there, so you might as well join in, right?
Besides, home-based exercise can get stale quickly when you’re stuck inside. Winter is the perfect time to try something new, and trying something new is the perfect way to avoid boredom burn-out.
Depending on where you exercise, you might be able to sample a wide range of classes to see what suits you. Get out of your house and check them out.
2. Bears are all alone with their cubs. You should go find a friend.
A 2016 study showed what most of us already knew: people are more likely to exercise if they have a supportive gym buddy.
Not only is exercising with a friend more fun, but it goes deeper than that. Nobody likes canceling on a friend, after all. You can use that to your advantage this winter to make sure you don’t ditch exercise for another re-run.
(Keep in mind, that only works if your gym buddy doesn’t live with you. Mutually assured Netflix binging is a thing.)
If all you get from your friends is a series of excuses, you still don’t have to exercise alone. You can:
- Finally permit yourself to hire an awesome personal trainer
- Check out Meetup.com exercise groups in your city
- Make friends in that excellent new class you just started
Heck, there’s even an app for that. You’ve got no excuse. Maybe you’ll have some new friends when spring rolls around.
3. Bears barely eat. You should eat well.
One reason bears hibernate is because their food sources are gone. No salmon, no berries, nothing.
We’ve got one up on them: we can feast on salmon and berries year-round.
On the other hand, sometimes you want something a little heartier than blueberries after coming in from the cold. That’s entirely natural: our bodies haven’t caught up with central heating yet. Carbs also perk up slumping serotonin levels, making up for the grey days and long nights of winter.
Instead of forcing yourself to work against human nature, change up your meal routine with the seasons.
How about this for a meal plan:
- Steel-cut oatmeal with walnuts and cranberries for breakfast
- Spicy, sugar-free chai tea or green tea with honey to keep you hydrated
- Creamy blended carrot soup made with real beef stock for lunch
- Homemade hot chocolate with 100 percent cocoa powder after you exercise
- Chili with lots of ground turkey and beans for dinner
Sounds good, right? It’s possible to chow down on comfort food and still stay healthy. Just avoid the macaroni and cheese, and you’ll be fine.
4. Bears don’t dream. You should make plans.
It’s true: hibernation doesn’t include REM sleep, so all those napping bears are dream-free.
Be the anti-bear. Use winter to make goals, beat them, and plan for the year to come.
There’s plenty of evidence for why it’s important to make fitness goals, and casual New Years resolutions don’t count. When you set goals for yourself, make them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
When you set your goals, ask yourself why you’re exercising in the first place and work from there. (That’s the relevancy!) Measuring reps or weight can be useful, but it’s easy to lose track of your motivation when the only thing you’re tracking are numbers.
What’s your health like, and what changes do you want to make?
Do you want to train for a specific event?
Are you challenging yourself?
There’s a reason why people make resolutions every winter: you’ve got the whole year spread out before you, and you have the responsibility of making it the year you want to live.
By making plans and setting goals, you won’t forget why you want to reach the spring feeling awesome.
The weather doesn’t matter, and – honestly – neither does a lot of good advice. What matters is making sure that you’re enthusiastic and committed to living a healthier life.
Being the anti-bear just makes it easier.