Avoiding hibernation: 5 simple tips to keep you fit this winter

Physiotherapist with Central Health Physiotherapy Aisling Condon surfingWinter is steadily drawing closer, and the temptation to stay warm and cozy inside can easily get the better of us. Personally, exercise has always been a big part of my life, not only because I enjoy it, but also because I know that it is doing so much good for my physical and mental wellbeing. But I’m still very familiar with those days when the idea of doing exercise just feels like a chore. When I consider how my desire to exercise varies, there is a key factor that makes all the difference – what’s going on outside. My motivation to exercise on a bright summer’s day sometimes could not be further from that on a cold, dark, rainy winter’s day. Over the years, I have tried various ways to keep myself motivated to exercise over these more difficult winter months, not least for my ‘need’ to stay ‘surf-fit’. If you are anything like me (ashamedly curtailing my days in the water as the neoprene coverage increases), then those first few surfs in the Spring tend to be pretty hard work as a result.

I think it is fair to say that most of us here in the Central Health Physio team know how much of a challenge it can be to stay motivated, both on a personal level but also that of our clients. Of course, there are various ways that we can help you here at Central Health, including expert physiotherapy assessment and treatment for any niggling injuries that are preventing you from getting into activity, as well as hydrotherapy, one-to-one Pilates and Pilates classes, lower limb strength and conditioning classes, personal training, and massage therapy.

But to help you on your way, I have put together a list of what I believe to be the five most effective ways to (a) keep motivated to stay generally fit and healthy this winter, regardless of age or fitness level, and (b) (for those of you like me with surfing) keep some sport-specific fitness. So while my motivation is to stay surf-fit, these tips apply to any activity and generally staying fit.

Five ways to stay motivated this winter

  1. Set Goals – be clear on what you are wanting to achieve over the next few months (eg lifting heavier weights, run further, surf for longer, be able to touch your toes, sit to stand without using your hands, play with grandchildren, walk the dog further, feel healthier) – by starting with goals in mind, you are more likely to succeed.
  2. Have both indoor and home variations – eg gym options, swimming pool, indoor classes, work out video at home. Find something you enjoy and you will be more likely to stick to it.
  3. Partner up – working out with a partner or in a group setting has been shown to have better outcomes in terms of performance and enjoyment, not to mention boosting your motivation, particularly if you know your friend is there waiting for you! Even things like swapping a coffee meet for a walk or an exercise class.
  4. Schedule it in – be deliberate in scheduling exercise and fitting it in, even when you are busy. Once you write it down in your calendar, it becomes part of your schedule for the day and this can help you achieve your fitness goal. Don’t let lack of time get you down – even when your schedule is busy, remind yourself exercise does not have to take long, as long as it is regular.
  5. ‘Tweak’ daily habits to encourage more activity during the day – even if it is just one e.g. park car further away from shop; use the stairs – running or walking up and down the stairs in your house or apartment building can be a great high intensity cardio and leg workout; try climbing two steps at a time, sprinting a few flights or doing jumping jacks between floors to raise the intensity. Even simple things like buttock squeezes or standing on one leg when you brush your teeth.

Maintaining sport-specific fitness

Central Health Physiotherapist Aisling Condon Pilates instructorIt is worth noting here, whilst I’ve accepted the fact I am never going to surf like the professionals I worked with at the championships in Hawaii, it is still vitally important to me to make the most out of my surfing and do it for as long as I can. So particularly for us ‘normal folk’, I believe variety in training is the key:

  1. Swimming – Vary the strokes and use goggles. Just don’t go crazy on the distance as any repetitive movement in the same direction could potentially do harm if you are not used to it. I focus on short bursts that mimic surf sessions, then rest, then go again, and even out the session with lengths of backstroke.
  2. Breath training – through my professional training with VitalityPro, I became very aware of how powerful pulmonary training can be on improving athletic performance and endurance. Whether this is just through blowing up balloons, breath holds on land or in the water (with professional supervision/guidance), or simply improving your ability to breathe ‘diaphragmatically’ (breathing into the bases of your lungs then filling upwards, rather than the shallow breathing many of us commonly adopt). We have been given a strong pair of lungs – let’s use them to their full capacity.
  3. Postural strength training – having strength from the inside out, and having awareness of how to correct certain positions and postures we tend to find ourselves in. Pilates is very effective for this type of thing, which is (generally) a lower intensity workout that incorporates core strengthening and stability training with breath-work, and is performed in a variety of different positions. If you sit a lot for work, there is a high chance that when you lie on a surfboard for example, your shoulders aren’t in the best position. Paddling itself can also be detrimental for your posture because most surfers lift their head up high and place strain on the lower back, neck, and shoulders. This is where corrective exercise like Pilates comes in.
  4. Functional strength training – controlled exercise to improve strength, endurance, power and agility, e.g. body weight exercises, TRX classes, higher intensity interval training.
  5. Mileage! Exposure to, and practice in, the specific sport itself is what will ultimately improve your sport-specific skills and performance. For me, this is difficult being in London, where the nearest surfing beach is a good few hours drive away, but I go when I can. Otherwise the hydrotherapy pool here has proven to be a great place to do specific exercises to train things such a duck-dives!

I hope these lists have helped to give you some inspiration or at least some ideas that you yourself could use this winter to help you stay motivated. On a finishing note, I would like to add that I am a firm believer in treating yourself after a job well done, not to mention the importance of rest days and all the research out there to support it. Therefore, make sure amongst all this hard work, you also pencil in a nice massage, a spa day, relaxation time in a jacuzzi or warm pool, or even just a hot bath.

Posted in Healthy Living, Pilates, Health & Fitness, Cardio Fitness, Strengthening and tagged , , .

Aisling Condon

Aisling Condon is a physiotherapist with Central Health Physiotherapy. She is based in Chelsea and specialises in the management of musculoskeletal conditions and injuries, including Hypermobility, biomechanics, functional movement, exercise therapy, hydrotherapy, Pilates and dry needling. In her spare time she is a keen sportswoman and passionate surfer.

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