This is my second winter in Chicago, and this year, the season is taking its toll on my workout regimen. Last winter was long but relatively snow-free, so I was able to get outside (with myriad layers of proper gear) and run through the streets of the city during the deepest months, feeling cold but highly accomplished due to my get-out-there grit where others chose to stay indoors to drink beer and lament winter's heavy hand.
But this year? SNOW, SNOW, SNOW. The white world outside my window is beautiful for like maybe 5 minutes, but then it dawns on me that in order to continue life as usual, I have to trudge through the drifts with my Paul Bunyan snow boots, my hat, gloves, scarf, my puffy Michelin-Man coat - you get the picture. With each falling snowflake, the idea of staying at home with a nice buzz and self-righteous complaints about the weather sounds better and better.
I get it, Chicago! I get the temptation to hibernate, to gain a few pounds and blame it on the scene outside, to make excuses for your inactivity by scapegoating the snow.
But I'm a California girl and I will not succumb! Instead, I've developed some strategies that are helpful when the weather is bad and you REALLY want to stay under the covers.
1. FIND A HOT WORKOUT STUDIO: Okay, so maybe I'm biased because I own a studio that offers heated core-based strength training classes (Mercury Method, anyone?), but I can't tell you how good it feels to warm your bones in a heated room when the elements have put the city in deep freeze. Like a lizard on a hot rock, you can feel the heat seeping deep into your inner layers so you get warm from the inside out. And the fact that you are moving your body, lubricating your joints, circulating your blood, breathing deeply and breaking a sweat means that you're strengthening your own internal heat engine. Hot yoga is the most popular heated practice by far, but more and more group fitness studios are offering warm workouts, so check the current programming at your local fitness centers.
2. LACK MOTIVATION TO LEAVE THE HOUSE? - BUILD A BATHROOM GYM BASKET: It sounds simple enough, but this tactic has gotten me to keep my workout commitments more than anything else. Before you go to bed, pull all your workout gear together - pants, top, tennis shoes, water bottle, ear buds, etc. - put them in a basket in your bathroom so the next morning all you have to do is either: a) put it on!, or b) throw it in a gym bag and take it to work with you. If you wake up in the morning and in the semi-darkness try to hunt around for all that stuff, you'll blow it off altogether. A little preparation goes a long way, so take 5 minutes before bed and get your gear in order!
3. AT-HOME WORKOUT DVD'S ARE WHERE IT'S AT: Okay, I admit that on the coldest, darkest days, you are best served by surrendering to the power of Mother Nature. Stay home, hang out, catch up on domestic duties and watch an extra episode of Real Housewives. But be sure to carve out some time for an at-home workout. Roll out a mat, pop in your favorite workout DVD (many available on NetFlix and streaming) and combat seasonal fatigue with at least 30 minutes of rigorous exercise!
Remember, working out doesn't make you tired; exercise energizes you through deep breathing, circulation and muscle strengthening. Burn off those glucose reserves so you feel more like a red-hot phoenix and less like the icy sludge piled up outside your front door.
Winter tests your fitness fortitude, but don't allow yourself to fall victim to its hypothermic charms! Use any and all means to keep moving - stretch, curl, twist, arch, breathe and keep generating your inner sunshine when there is none outside. This too shall pass, and with it comes the beauty and re-birth of Springtime, when you can show some skin and show off that svelte physique you created during the worst of winter. Put your head down, put your Lululemons on, and get to it!