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Here we are approaching winter, those extra “holiday pounds” looming on the horizon. Studies have shown that most people gain an average of only one pound over the holidays. The bad news is that we don’t ever lose that pound, which means that much of our midlife weight gain can be explained by holiday eating. The extra bad news is that midlife is when we are working the most and have less time for exercise.
“You don’t get to slouch on the couch just because it’s winter!” says fitness expert Lisa Boucher. So how can a busy exec stay fit, especially when the flurries fly?
Breaking the Barriers
Boucher, a personal trainer and fitness expert for 20 years, acknowledges how difficult it is to find time to work out, but she offers tips on busting through the scheduling—and mental—barriers. “Remember that exercise is cumulative. It doesn’t have to be 60 minutes or nothing. If you can squeeze in a 15-20 minute workout in the morning and another one at night, it adds up to 30-40 minutes. That’s better than not exercising at all.”
Boucher recommends that workouts be scheduled just like any other appointment. “Plan ahead! Pack your clothes for the gym the night before so that you can go straight there after work,” she says. “Use your lunch hour to exercise; it is rejuvenating and will give you energy for the rest of your work day. Be as active as you can. Take the stairs, park far away from the door so you will have to walk more.”
Resist the Call of the Cave
How many times have you had intentions to leap out of bed, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, and head straight to the gym, only to find the snowflakes falling and the cozy cave of your bedroom a much more tempting option?
Denise Druce, a leading fitness professional in Utah who has produced dozens of workout DVDs and has been a featured trainer in SELF magazine, says that with the onset of winter, many of us seem to follow the animal kingdom. “We lose our motivation, hibernate in front of our televisions and stay there until spring. The problem is, as we slow down, our stress level doesn’t. We continue working, raising children, maintaining our homes and relationships, and eating the way we do when we’re more active. But we’re not being active enough to burn off the stress or the calories.”
Druce says that the lack of exercise becomes a vicious cycle. “Lack of motivation leads to feelings of depression and guilt about not being more motivated. We see that ambitious person running down our street and wish we could be more motivated like them,” she says. “But here’s the Catch-22: When we motivate ourselves to get up and do something active, it gives us the energy and motivation we were looking for.”
Embrace the Elements
Exercising in the winter is especially challenging for lovers of the outdoors. “There are always ways to stay warm outside in the winter,” Boucher says, adding that with proper clothing you can battle the elements.
Utah is one of the world’s premiere winter playgrounds, which can translate into a fantastic outdoor gym. Downhill skiing can burn up to 500 calories per hour, depending on your weight. “We have world-class skiing and snowboarding, and for less money and more calorie burn, cross-country ski trails abound,” says Druce. “Maybe this is your year to take that lesson you’ve been promising to take. Invest in a pair of snow shoes. All of the hiking trails you loved in the summer and fall are perfect for snowshoeing.”
Take it Inside
It helps to know all of your options when it comes to winter exercises. The most obvious choice is to join a gym or a recreation center, if even for the few months that you can’t exercise in the sun. “Find a gym or a rec center where a variety of fitness classes are offered,” suggests Boucher. “Not a gym fan? Find a location where you can walk indoors, like a mall. Create a home gym with some inexpensive but excellent equipment like a stability ball, dumbbells or resistance bands. There are a lot of exercise DVDs out there. Find a few that you like and have fun!”
However, she adds, “if you plan on taking your workouts indoors, make sure you are doing something you love so that you will stay motivated enough to keep doing it.”