All the leaves are broon and the sky is grey! Well, it's getting that way around here anyway, that time of year when you just want to hide under the blankets and cry. Which brings us to the lovely Margaret's topic suggestion:
"Perhaps a subject to touch upon… is what to do to fight off the probability of motivation slide as the weather becomes cooler.. and how to move your exercise regime indoors without wanting to chuck it all in."
Exercise becomes even more of a priority during winter. My sunny disposition (haw haw) tends to nosedive without regular exercise and even more so when it gets dark at 3PM. Exercise this summer was nice and leisurely and fun – bike rides, hill walks, canoe stints – but it will take a bit more imagination over winter.
I don't rely on motivation per se, because I rarely wake up thinking OH YEAH HURRAH it's time to exercise! So the trick is to make it as 1) efficient 2) inviting and 3) easy and mindless as possible, so there's a chance I'll actually do it instead of grumbling into a mug of hot chocolate.
As always, I can only ramble on about what works for me and hopefully it will be somewhat useful to passers-by.
It's easy to miss daylight altogether when you arrive and leave work in the dark, so this winter I'm aiming to get away from the computer and go outside at lunchtime. I kept meaning to do this last year but most days I'd end up yapping in the lunch room or remain slumped in front of the computer. When I did get out and stretch the legs, even just five minutes of Vitamin D and fresh air did wonders for my mood and will to live!
I've sung the praises of group fitness classes about eleventeen million times on here but they are even handier during winter because of their Leave Your Brain At Home-ness. In winter, I find the mental effort of exercise feels even more enormous than the physical, so 45 minutes of Spinning or the kick and punch of a Body Combat class is a great way to get it out of the way. Just rock up to a class, let someone boss you about for an hour, and you're done before you know it.
I really loathe cardio at the gym but it's a sensible option when the pavements are icy or just poorly lit. I always sigh and huff when it's Cardio Day but have come up with a few ways to make it bearable:
- High Intensity Interval Training – maximum results with minimum time. Just Google HIIT to find some sample workouts. The idea is to be completely shagged by the end of it, as though you couldn't possibly do another minute on the cursed treadmill/bike/whatever. My average session is 25 minutes.
That can still feel like an age sometime, so I use Cardio Coach. This is a downloadable MP3 workout where a dude called Sean O'Malley with a rather sexy voice tells you exactly what to do; suitable for any piece of cardio equipment. When to go fast, when to go slow, when to stretch; it really does make the time go faster! I have conversations with Sean in my head. I hate you Sean. Oh we're almost there? Fine then. I'll do it. Only for you. Fetch me another bottle of water Sean. You're the best Sean. HIGHLY recommended. iTrain also does MP3 workouts but they're a little cheesy for my liking.
- Rowing Races – Sometimes when I am feeling REALLY sluggish and/or unmotivated, I'll go to the gym and say, "Okay lazyarse, all you have to do is commit to ONE KILOMETRE on the rowing machine and then we can go home." But then the competitive streak kicks in, and I will be disgruntled with my time, so I will do another kilometre and try and beat that. Soon enough I've got in a rather intense workout.
The Home Gym
My favourite kind of workout is the one you can do in your pyjamas. I'd be lost without my Home Gym, which consists of a scrap of floorspace in our bedroom measuring 1 x 3 metres and a few bits and pieces:
- Workout DVDs. My favourites are:
- Cathe Pyramid Upper and Lower Body and Muscle Endurance
- Gaiam Pilates for Weight Loss and Yoga for Weight Loss. There's nothing particularly weight lossy about those DVDs, they were just decent workouts going cheap on Amazon!
- Thanks to Mary, OM Yoga Intermediate/Beginners DVD which rules.
- The best thing about ALL of these DVDs is that they have timesaver options. The normal workouts are about an hour, but they have shortened versions, usually 45 minutes. I find myself taking that option quite often, hehe. So when it's time to get sweaty, I put a DVD into the computer and off we go!
- Reebok step – a bench for weights, to stand on for calf raises, or to cling on for grim death for tricep dips. These are pretty cheap at Argos and slide neatly under the bed when not in use.
- Resistance bands – if you Google "resistance bands" there are dozens of exercises you can do with these inexpensive rubber babies. I made a list of band and body weight exercises that equates to a total body resistance workout – totally portable and perfect if you don't have much space and/or feeling too lazy to get out the dumbbells!
- Assorted dumbbells – These live under the bed. I started with a 1.5, 3, and 5 kilo set from Argos that were quite cheap. I've gradually built up a collection, including some nice heavy ones I found by Googling "cheap dumbbells uk". They were listed as seconds so were really cheap, and absolutely nothing wrong with them but a few wee scratches!
- Barbell and plates – Again from Argos. You can generally do most exercises with dumbbells but the barbell is the way to go when you want to lift heavier. I shove the barbell under the bed when not in use, but inevitably I leave the end poking out and someone trips over it and screams, "F*!@ing BARBELL!" Because of my limited floorspace I have to turn sideways and watch the screen out of the corner of my eye, otherwise the bar clonks into the wardrobe. Awkward, but do-able!
- Swiss ball for doing ab work or modified planks and pushups or even as a weight bench when too lazy to get out the Reebok step. The ball lives on top of the Wall of Sound in our hallway – Gareth's bass amp and other musical paraphernalia, which is crammed in next to a mountain bike. The ball falls off its perch about 20 times a day, often landing on one's head to a chorus of, "F*!@ing BALL!"
All of this stuff has been gradually gathered over the past three years or so, and has proved very cost effective. When it's miserable outside, it is much easier to convince myself to do some exercise when I just have to drag out some dumbbells from under the bed. Huzzah! So let it snow let it snow let it snow… I'm ready baby!