How to Motivate Yourself to Go to the Gym on Cold, Dark Days

How to Motivate Yourself to Go to the Gym on Cold, Dark Days

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I love to work out, and as a senior editor at Health, it’s a big part of my job. But I’m the first to admit that exercising when days turn cold and dark can suck. It’s pitch black when my alarm goes off for a before-work workout, and it’s dark again by 4 p.m. Plus, living in New York City means snowy, wind-chilled treks to the subway to get to my fitness locales.

But one thing I know very well about myself is that my mood sinks drastically in fall and winter. Exercise is in part an antidote to my winter blues. Because of that, I’ve found little tricks that help me stay consistent—and in turn happier and with more pep in my step overall—through the cold-weather months. Read on for the fall and winter workout motivation hacks that work for me . . . that might just work for you too.

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Wake up to light and music

If I’m working out in the morning before work, the toughest part for me is physically getting out of bed. Once I’m up and standing, I’m set. So when my alarm goes off, I immediately switch on my bedside lamp and stream my Spotify workout playlist from my phone. Even if I lie in bed for a few minutes longer, the gentle light and good tunes keep me alert enough so that I won’t doze off again and ditch.

Or treat yourself to an early holiday present and invest in Sonos wireless speakers. The Sonos mobile app allows you to set alarms so you can wake up to your pump-up playlist—a tip I learned from Ashley Wilking, an instructor at Rumble Boxing in New York City and a Nike trainer.

“I love choosing my songs based on what my day looks like,” Wilking tells Health. “If I need to wake up at 4 a.m. to teach class, I like something to pump me up—I’ll go for a rap or hip-hop mix. If I’m getting up to start my day but want to keep a mellow vibe, I’ll go for the Coffee House Chill or Indie Acoustics playlists on Spotify.”

Warm up on the way to the gym

If you’re like me and can’t (or just don’t like to) work out at home, you have to find a way to make the chilly gym commute more manageable. If weather permits and it’s safe to do so, try using the journey as a warm-up opportunity. “I always ride my Citi Bike to class in the morning,” Wilking says. “It gets you moving before you have to move in your workout.”

Wet or icy roads preventing you from jogging or biking your way there? Distract yourself with good music or a podcast. “I put on an audio book—my current listen is You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero—and take Mia, our mini Australian shepherd, for a walk along the water,” Wilking says.

Follow a fitness influencer 

Like many humans, I wake up and scroll social media for a bit before getting out of bed, which helped me discover the Insta-story of Joelle Cavagnaro, a personal trainer and high school health and physical education teacher in the New York City area.

Cavagnaro is awake at 5 a.m. every morning and chronicles her dark walk to the gym, her workout, and her (still dark) hike home. She provides hilarious commentary and super motivational words of advice. Watching Cavagnaro’s efforts every single day makes me think, if she’s out there getting it done before the sun is up, I can do the same

“Knowing that I have people following my journey, my workouts, my routine, helps me to stay on track, just as much as it helps them,” she tells Health.

RELATED: It’s Better to Work Out With Other People Than by Yourself. Here’s Why

Become a regular

For many months now, I’ve been hooked on a particular fitness studio—Switch Playground—and I’ve been more consistent than ever with my workouts. I’ll get there rain (or cold, or wind) or shine.

To start, I love the actual workout—and that is key when it comes to making a fitness habit stick, especially during the toughest time of year to do it. (“It’s pretty hard to stick to a workout plan you hate,” Cavagnaro points out. “If you hate the treadmill, don’t go on the treadmill.”)

But another major part of what gets my butt to class is that I’ve become close with many of the instructors. I’ll drop them a message, like, “I’m coming to the 7:15; I’m exhausted so I need a good push tonight!” Giving them that heads-up that I’m attending holds me accountable; and having a dialogue with the folks there makes the actual working out part less of a chore and more like a visit with friends.

So if you love a particular class, make it a point to say hi to the instructor and share your fitness goals. That way, you’re expected to show up each week to meet them. Prefer to sweat by yourself at the gym? Introduce yourself to trainers and other gym regulars around the floor; chat with the guys and girls at the front desk. (Cavagnaro gets a “Sup, Big J?” from other early-bird exercisers at her gym.) The camaraderie will inspire you—as will a “Where have you been?!” if you disappear for too long.

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Find (reliable) workout buddies

“Committing to a workout with a friend is a great way to make sure you get yourself out the door, as no one likes to let their friends down,” Oliver Lee, a personal trainer in New York City and a former Barry’s Bootcamp instructor (and one of my workout buds who I can always count on), tells Health

Even if you don’t like working out with a partner, you can benefit from the support of like-minded friends and family, Cavagnaro says. “I work out alone, and that works best for me,” she explains. “But my husband and I are both passionate about the gym. We go to the gym together on weekends, separate for our workouts, and then meet up again after to walk home together.”

I also often times reach out to people with little gym “check-ins.” My mom and I, for example, cheer each other on via text, and we do this more often when the weather gets gross:

Commit to an early bedtime

As tempting as it is to stay up to watch one more episode of Stranger Things, powering down electronics and hitting the sheets at a reasonable hour is critical if you’re going to beat winter tiredness and make it to the gym. This is the right time of the year to turn in on the early side, when darkness and chilly temperatures make curling up under the covers so ideal.

“I can’t stress this enough to my clients, my students, or anyone else trying to have a productive day,” Cavagnaro says. “I could never do what I do without adequate rest and recovery time. I know my body and I know that I need at least eight hours of sleep to be a functional, productive member of society—and to have energy for my morning workout.”

Cavagnaro also suggests thinking of an a.m. workout as the ticket to an energized day, rather than something you need to find energy for. “My workout itself is like my morning coffee,” she says. “It starts my day, gives me the energy to get going, and sets up my day for productivity and success.”

RELATED: 11 Warm Recipes for Cold Weather

Schedule workouts strategically

Sweating it out after work? Don’t leave yourself time to stop off at home first . . . and get sidelined by something great on TV or your never-ending social feed. “I tend to plan my workouts around times that I will be out of the house already, either on my way to a meeting or on my way home,” Lee explains. “That way, I’m already outside.”

Cavagnaro agrees: If she does have to hit the gym after school instead of at her typical 5 a.m. session, she brings all of her gear with her and goes straight from the classroom. “The motivation to go definitely dwindles down if you stop home, have a snack, have to change,” she says. “I find that going right from work to the gym, alleviates those ‘should I really go?’ thoughts.”

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Talk yourself out of your excuses

There are still times I find myself in the comfort of my warm apartment coming up with every excuse in the book to avoid bundling up and mobilizing. When it happens, I like to remind myself of this: In the amount of time you will spend sitting around making excuses, you could be half way through a workout by now. (Slightly cheesy? Yes. But it works for me.)

I also ask myself what I would do in that time when I could be getting in a workout. Would I do a load of laundry? Would I meal prep for the next few days? Would I watch Sex and the City reruns? If I’m exhausted and know I’ll use the time to do something else productive, I cut myself some slack. But if my gut tells me I’ll waste the hour being lazy, I’ll get my butt off the couch and do something to crank my heart rate, even if that means walking on an incline on the treadmill for 15 minutes.

5 Exercises for Rock-Hard Abs From Gwyneth Paltrow’s Trainer

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Gwyneth Paltrow showed off some seriously toned stomach in a recent supermarket-themed photo shoot for Harper’s Bazaar. And who can blame her? If we had rock-hard abs like that, we’d flaunt ’em while grocery shopping too. 

Paltrow’s killer bod would ignite envy in most twenty-somethings, which makes it hard to believe the mom of two turned 44 last month. She clearly knows her way around the gym. So even though we’re not always on board with Paltrow’s health advice (vagina steaming, anyone?), we’re happy to follow her lead to a six-pack!

Luckily, Health‘s contributing fitness editor, Tracy Anderson, also happens to be Paltrow’s trainer, and in the video below, she demonstrates five of her go-to ab-chiseling moves.

Anderson’s advice: Run through these exercises (10 reps of each) before a 30- to 60-minute cardio workout. Prepare to feel the burn. 

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RELATED: I Took Gwyneth Paltrow’s Healthy Living Advice for a Week 

Committed to toning up like Gwyneth? Check out more of Anderson’s top moves below, and sign up for her 30-Day Core Challenge. Over the next month she’ll lead you through gradually increasing reps of calorie-torching moves, to transform your butt, back, and abs.

Emma Stone’s Trainer Swears By These 3 Full-Body Exercises 

Emma Stone’s Trainer Swears By These 3 Full-Body Exercises 

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In La La Land, Emma Stone goes on a sing-and-dance journey through Los Angeles—and boy does all that tap dancing look tiring. We wondered what Stone did to build the strength and stamina needed for long days of dancing and singing on set, so we reached out to her personal trainer, Jason Walsh. Here, he shares the three exercises he uses in training with all of his celebrity clients, who in addition to Stone include Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, and John Krasinski. 

Deadlifts

“Deadlifting is essential to all of my training programs, weather its men or women, because it strengthens all the major muscle groups while reinforcing primitive movement patterns and alignments,” Walsh says. “Essentially, its the most effective move there is.”

To do a deadlift, stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Keeping your weight in your heels, push your hips back and lower your torso as you slide a weighted bar or dumbbells down the front of your thighs to just below your knees. Slowly rise to standing while keeping your shoulders back.

If you don’t have a bar or weights, you can do a single-leg deadlift to improve balance and strengthen your legs. Watch the video for a tutorial:

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Sled pushes

Walsh also swears by sled pushes. “They’re another great tool that utilizes all major muscle groups but in a unilateral form, with a single leg working at a time,” he says. Walsh says this move is great for conditioning and burning fat.

To do it, stand in front of a weighted sled. Stagger your feet, hinge forward at your hips slightly, place your hands on the front of the sled, and push. Walk as far as you can. 

Hip thrusts

Get the most out of a booty-burning workout with hip thrusts (also known as hip bridges), which strengthen hip movement and activate the glutes. “This might be the single best exercise for the glutes, which are the biggest, and in my opinion, the most important muscle group in the body,” Walsh says. To do a hip thrust or glute bridge, lay on your back, knees bent, with your feet parallel to each other, palms face down. Raise your hips towards the ceiling and the slowly lower. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

The New #LoveOverBias 2018 Winter Olympics Ad Will Move You to Tears

The New #LoveOverBias 2018 Winter Olympics Ad Will Move You to Tears

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Whip out that pack of tissues. With the 2018 Winter Games less than 100 days away, household products giant Procter and Gamble has just released their latest heartstrings-tugging Olympics video campaign. 

Just as they did in previous years, P&G themed the campaign around the moms of athletes. “Thank You, Mom” is a tearjerker of a tribute, highlighting the love and support of the mothers of the competitors who will be going for the gold in PyeongChang, South Korea in February.

But this year’s video series also takes on a hot-button topic: bias. Titled “Love Over Bias,” the campaign’s first ad features a montage of moms watching their adorable children chase their sports-related dreams, from figure skating to ice hockey. The children all come from diverse backgrounds in terms of race, ethnicity, and disability.

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Like all moms, the mothers in the video want the best for their kids, encouraging and supporting them in a world that doesn’t always appreciate diversity. The vignettes focus on real Olympic athletes and their personal stories about struggling to make it in the face of bias and stereotypes.

To go along with the new campaign (more videos have been released on YouTube), P&G has launched the hashtag #LoveOverBias. The aim is to start a conversation about differences and diversity, support competitors, and build anticipation for the Olympics, one of the few worldwide events that brings together people across the globe.

How to Recover After a Giant Meal

How to Recover After a Giant Meal

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This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

When you’re stuffed to the point of discomfort after an indulgent holiday dinner, you might be wondering what it’s going to take to feel like your healthy self again. Here, nutrition and fitness experts share advice to help you get back on track after overeating—without starving yourself or doing hours of cardio.

First things first: Stop beating yourself up!
“Feeling guilty doesn’t lead to healthier eating and is more often associated with perpetuating emotional and binge eating behaviors,” says Torey Jones Armul, RDN, National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You can’t go backward: Tell yourself you’ll start making healthier decisions starting right now.

Go for a walk.
This can aid digestion and possibly help decrease the fat your body stores, says Marta Montenegro, exercise physiologist and nutrition specialist. One study showed that when subjects took a light walk after a high-fat meal, they decreased their post-meal triglyceride concentration (the type of fat your body stores to use for energy) by around 70 percent compared to the non-walking group.

Get leftovers out of sight.
Whether you encourage guests to take leftovers with them, or stick them in containers to store in your freezer, moving extra food out of sight and out of mind will help you return to your normal healthy eating routine over the next few days, Jones Armul says. “Portioning out leftover foods in single-serving containers prolongs the food’s shelf life, helps with portion control and slows down the urge to chow down on those tempting dishes,” she says.

Note the damage, but don’t let it define you.
If stepping on the scale the day after Thanksgiving will help you get back on track with a healthier eating mindset, then do it, but don’t assume the scale shows true weight gain. It may be up a few notches, but that just reflects water retention, says Molly Morgan, RD, author of Skinny-Size It. There are 3,500 calories in a pound, so to have actually gained three or four pounds, you would’ve had to consume more than 10,500 to 14,000 extra calories! Even though our experts and other sources estimate the average American might take in 2,000 to 4,500 calories over the course of Thanksgiving day eating, that still only adds up to about a pound at the most. “Increase your fluid intake for the next few days to help flush out the extra water,” Morgan says.

Improve your next meal.
If you overdid the calories at one meal, keep the next meal lighter, but still satisfying by filling it halfway with vegetables, says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies . T hen fill out the remainder of the plate with lean protein options.

Track your calories for the next few days.
Record your food intake on a smartphone app (like Lose It! or MyFitnessPal) or with pen and paper for a couple of days to get back to your eating routine, suggests Morgan. One study showed that self-monitoring consistently during the holiday season helped the study participants minimize weight gain.

Calm your stressed system with yoga.
Your body is under stress after a big meal, says Montenegro. Yoga can help by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the one that lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and relaxes the stomach nerves. Doing yoga has also been shown to increase the response of feel-good neurochemicals like serotonin and the oxytocin hormone, so you’ll feel happier, more relaxed, and ready to move on with your healthy goals after this particular overeating session. In one study, Iyengar style yoga helped reduce Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms, such as abdominal pain, fatigue, constipation, and other digestive issues.

Tack on a few more intense workouts.
Maximize calorie burn by doing moderate- to high-intensity exercises—they’ll increase your metabolism for 12 to 24 hours after you’re done working out, says Montenegro. Do 15 reps of each of squats, shoulder presses, lateral side raises, bent over rows, biceps curls, triceps extensions, side bends, pushups and leg raises. Then repeat the circuit one or two more times.

Focus on your food intake over the course of a week rather than day-to-day, suggests Palinski-Wade: “Don’t let one ‘bad’ meal or day define you.

It’s Better to Work Out With Other People Than by Yourself. Here’s Why

It’s Better to Work Out With Other People Than by Yourself. Here’s Why

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Exercise is great for mental health; Research has shown that it can lower stress, improve mood and even decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. But new research finds that a group exercise class may be even better for your mental wellbeing than a solo sweat session.

A small study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that people who took group exercise classes reported less stress and more physical, emotional and mental health benefits than those who exercised alone or did not hit the gym at all, suggesting that a social atmosphere may compound the already numerous benefits of physical activity.

At the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, 69 people in their first or second year of medical school—typically a very stressful time—were recruited for the study. One group of students did at least one 30-minute core training class together each week; another exercised alone or with one or two other people at least twice a week; and a third didn’t engage in any physical activity beyond walking or biking for transportation. Students were allowed to choose their own group.

The students took surveys about their stress levels every four weeks and periodically filled out additional surveys about their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. After 12 weeks, the researchers determined that those taking the group core training class were seeing the best results.

The study has some limitations. It’s possible that people who chose the core training group already knew they liked group exercise, and thus saw benefits. But the research suggests that the virtues of fitness classes go far beyond working up a sweat. In addition to a community vibe, the researchers note that the music and choreography used in group classes may boost mood. 

All the more reason to hit that barre exercise class after work.

5 Ways to Fight a Sugar Binge

5 Ways to Fight a Sugar Binge

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It’s that time of year, and once again, you caved. You didn’t just eat one piece of candy, you ate all the candy (or at least that’s what it felt like). You know it’s not the best move for your body—but now that it’s done, is there anything you can do to counteract its effects?

While you can’t erase those calories, there are some simple ways you can keep them from being immediately stored as fat, says Laila Tabatabai, MD, an endocrinologist at Houston Methodist Hospital, and fend off the eventual energy crash (and junk-food cravings!) that can happen after eating too many sweets. Here are her tips for what to do next.

 

Get some exercise

It can take a lot of physical activity to burn off one moment of weakness—you’d have to run almost 5 miles to cancel out the calories in a Dunkin’ Donuts Apple Crumb donut, for example. But even if you can’t entirely negate your dietary indiscretions, a little extra cardio is still better than nothing.

“What’s even more important than burning off those calories is that exercise can reduce your appetite and reduce your cravings for additional sugar,” says Dr. Tabatabai. She recommends going for a quick walk, adding an extra 15 minutes to your regular afternoon workout, or taking the stairs at lunchtime instead of the elevator. If you can get outside, even better: Research shows that exposure to sunlight can improve alertness—something you may be lacking once that blood-sugar crash kicks in.

RELATED: 10 Mistakes That Make Cravings Worse

 

Cut carbs at your next meal

If your sugar binge happens before lunch or dinner, Dr. Tabatabai recommends eliminating bread and simple carbohydrates at your next meal. “If you’ve already had something sweet and sugary, stick with salad and lean protein,” she says. “You don’t need the additional potato or pasta carbs piled on top.”

This strategy will not only help keep your overall daily calories in check, she says, but it can help keep your blood-sugar levels stable so you’ll stay energized throughout the day.

RELATED: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

Drink a glass (or two) of water

You may be tempted to guzzle coffee once you start to feel the effects of your sugar crash, but the buzz you get from caffeine will be short-lived. Instead, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of good old H2O, Dr. Tabatabai says.

“Drinking extra water can actually help flush out some of the extra sugar you’ve eaten,” she says. Plus, it can prevent dehydration—which has been shown to cause drowsiness, even in mild cases. If you really need caffeine, opt for a cup of tea without sugar.

RELATED: 7 Easy Ways to Drink More Water

 

Have a high-protein snack

No matter how many calories you ingest during a junk-food binge, chances are you’ll feel hungry again about two hours later, says Dr. Tabatabai, thanks to your rapidly declining blood-sugar levels. If you’re not due for a meal (see above), satisfy your appetite with a 100- to 200-calorie, high-protein snack.

“Have an apple with peanut butter, a hard-boiled egg, some Greek yogurt—something that’s low in simple sugars that will help you feel full until your next meal,” she says.

RELATED: 17 High-Protein Snacks You Can Eat On the Go

Stay on your feet

Resist the urge to slump in your chair all afternoon; instead, try to spend as much time standing up as possible. In a 2011 study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of people who used a standing desk at work for seven weeks reported that they felt more energized, more focused, and more productive.

Plus, standing will automatically burn off more of those calories than sitting, and a recent Australian study shows that alternating bouts of sitting and standing throughout the day can help lower elevated blood-sugar levels, as well.

To get more nutrition tips delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter

 

Don’t fall off the wagon

The most important thing, Dr. Tabatabai says, is to remember that your slip-up is not an excuse to forget all about your healthy eating goals. “A lot of people think ‘Oh well, there goes my diet; might as well make this a cheat day,’ but you can still cut it off at any point and prevent yourself from eating more,” she says.

It may be harder than you think—research shows that low blood-glucose levels can actually lower willpower and make you crave sugar and fat over healthy foods. But following the strategies above can help you recover quickly and resist future temptations.