There’s still 24 hours in the day but now that the mornings are darker and the sunsets earlier it feels like there is less time outside of the working day for winter workouts. It’s tempting to hoard food and energy like a hedgehog preparing for hibernation, but a few simple tricks can build mental focus through forming easy new habits and exercise. Here are our tips.
1. Rise and shine
Let the light in before the sun shines with the lights in your house. Light receptors in the eye stimulate the brain and there are some simple, cheap and easy technologies to use a light in your bedroom as an alarm. Even better are the daylight simulators designed for those that suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). In short, aim to keep you lit hours long and your body will retain the patterns established in the summer months through the darker days.
2. Mix up short sequences to keep winter workouts varied
The following options are the pick’n’mix exercise choices that will get you through winter. Try them in different orders, at different times of the day. Do them back to back when time allows or spread three through the course of the day to tot up winter workouts that will keep you motivated and build your strength, endurance and flexibility. Aim to do at least one every day through winter.
Get a quick HIIT fix
If you’ve only got 20 to 30 minutes to spare a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout will rapidly get the heart pumping and the mind moving. Jog around at an easy pace for 2-3 minutes to warm up then devote the remainder of the time you have to alternating 45 second bursts of high intensity moves with 15 seconds of rest and recovery time. Easy exercises include burpees, power squats, power lunges, shuttle runs and mountain climbers The elevation in heart rate will stay with you for some time after the workout has ended. This fantastic feeling will concentrate your efforts at work and motivate you to keep putting in the effort for exercise.
Greet the light
Whether it’s the light from your bulb or the low cast winter rays, facing a light source and completing the Yoga Vinyasa known as ‘Greet the Sun’ has fantastic physical and emotional benefits. There are many versions of Greet the Sun and you can find examples of them on YouTube. It’s a simple sequence and so won’t be long before you know it by heart. Once you do you can add more repetitions or research more challenging options to develop your flexibility and strength. And because it’s short and sweet it can easily be added to anything else you do. In fact it’s ideal as a warm up to any form of exercise. The principles of every Greet the Sun vinyasa are that for every posture there’s a counterposture which means every part of the body moved is taken through a complete range of motion. Also, movement and breath co-ordinate which delivers oxygen all round the body. Taking the time to think about this alignment of breath and body in turn calms and focuses the mind, meaning mental and physical agility are developed.
Dance like no-one's watching
Those forms of exercise that require you to learn new moves in co-ordination with songs also bring mind and body together. Recent research has suggested they even combat brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. And typically songs only last 3 to 4 minutes so they’re short, sharp and fun ways to burn calories. This winter pick an anthem, a song you love, new or old, trendy or cheesy. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s upbeat. Then, in the comfort of your own living room devise an energetic dance routine to it all of your own. Keep it on your playlist, pop it on every time you have a few minutes to spare and let your hair down. When you’ve nailed the choreography add a new tune. By the time spring arrives you’ll be able to put on a show for friends and family.
Take an endurance challenge
- 100 minutes of plank
- 500 sit ups
- 500 lunges on each leg
- 500 kettlebell swings
- Walk 50,000 steps
- 200 press ups