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The Take Care of Yourself Series Part 1: Maintaining the Motivation to Exercise during the most Demotivating Time of Year

Ah, November.

For most of us, this marks the beginning of what can often feel like a never-ending winter. As our tans start to fade and that annual SAD kicks in (seasonal affective disorder), our motivation to exercise can often take a downturn as we realize we’ll likely be hiding under layers of sweaters for the foreseeable future. However, staying active consistently is not just about working on your beach body, it also plays a big role in your overall health and happiness. Legendary Phil Mackenzie said it best with, “Exercise is a MEDICINE. There is nothing better for your health (both mental and physical) than a constant dose of exercise, healthy foods, and consistent sleep.” We’re here to help you kick the standard excuses you give yourself during the winter months and maintain that level of motivation needed to take care of your body.

We consulted fitness expert, Alessandra Liu, about how she is able to combat the lack of motivation to exercise during this time of year. After years of competitive sport injuries, Alessandra discovered the powerful healing benefits of yoga and went on to become an instructor, teaching classes ranging from Fusion to Yin (although Vinyasa is her favourite). After taking one of her classes and asking her where her inspiration to stay committed comes from, she responded: “I combat the lack of motivation by listening to inspiring podcasts, or following authentic fitness trainers or ‘influencers’ on social media. Sometimes, hearing that one sentence, even a simple ‘you got this’ can go a long way. Most of the barriers we have are those created by the mind. By changing our mindset, many aspects of our lives can begin to flourish.”

We rounded up a list of your standard excuses below and came up with a sure-fire way to overcome them.

I don’t have the self-motivation or accountability to stick to a consistent schedule.

You don’t have to do it alone! NBC News found 95% of those who started a weight-loss program with friends completed the program. Alessandra even recommends trying a variety of classes out as the best way to stay engaged in exercising. With the multitude of fitness classes available, there are plenty of opportunities to try different ones and see which you enjoy the most. By being in a group setting, you feel more motivated to push yourself a little harder, do that extra rep, and stay accountable. Most studios offer free trials for their classes too, so you really have nothing to lose (except some fat)!

Here are a few of our top picks to help you find your favourite classes:

ClassPass: You get a full trial month for FREE where a single pass gives you access to hundreds of studios and gyms in your area. Why stick to one when you can have it all?

MINDBODY: An all encompassing platform that lets you find classes in your area, helps manage all your classes and wellness appointments in one master schedule, and has a whole section dedicated to “Intro Offers” near you! Why search for free trials when you can have them all displayed in one comprehensive list?

Passport To Prana: For all the yogis out there, this is the pass made for you. With over 500 studios in 40 different styles, for just $30 you have unlimited access for a full year (that’s less than the price of 2 drop-ins)! Why pay more when you don’t have to?

I don’t have the time.

If you have time to watch an hour of Netflix before bed or go for happy hour with your friends, you have an extra hour to spare every couple of days for the gym (or even just for an at-home workout). If you value something, you will find time for it. However, we recognize it is difficult to jump into a consistent workout routine right from the start, so ease into it! 15 minutes is still better than nothing and once you start with that mindset, you’ll be improving and expanding your routine with each week that you dominate.

Here are a few apps we love when we’re unable to make it to the gym:

Nike Training Club App: Regardless of your fitness level, this app has a workout for you with lots of categories that organize each workout based on muscle groups, workout types, and equipment. Each workout ranges from 5 to 45 minutes so you can mix and match which ones suit your mood for the day and it all can be done from your living room or hotel room if you’re busy or on the go.

Strava: This app will turn your phone into a sophisticated running and cycling computer which will track all your stats and measure your performance. If you can’t get to the gym, just open the app and see how far you can run in 30 minutes. Your body will thank you for it. Plus, you can share your activities on the Strava feed with a network of individuals working towards their goals just like you.

The weather is awful today, I’ll wait for a nicer day.

With that excuse, you’ll be lucky if you exercise at all this winter. It’s true our mood tends to reflect the weather outdoors which is often dark and dreary. However, there are plenty of opportunities for you to take advantage of the winter weather and incorporate it into your exercise routine. Give your running shoes a break and lace up your snowshoes for a great calorie-burning outdoor workout that improves your cardio, strength, balance, and endurance as reported by the Huffington Post.

I don’t know how to use the machines at the gym.

A gym can be a very intimidating environment, especially with the fear of people watching your form and passing judgement. Here are a few workarounds to consider before you stop going all together:

  1. The employees are there for a reason, ask them for assistance and you’ll be surprised how often they’re willing to help and recommend options you wouldn’t have even considered!
  2. Bring a buddy, your fear of failure will disappear as you both take turns spotting each other or trying out new machines.
  3. Invest in alternative pieces of equipment that are easy to use and still provide a killer workout such as resistance bands, pilates rings, ankle weights, and core sliders (which can easily be found on Amazon). For inspiration, most of the brands that manufacture these products have instagram pages with different workouts you can try for yourself!

I’m tired of my regular routine and I prefer not to do group fitness classes.

That’s 100% alright. Our answer to that: sports. Here’s how we suggest getting back into playing sports even if you haven’t done so since high school:

  1. Team sports! Not only an excellent way to stay in shape but also probably the most fun you can have while exercising. Chances are that there is some form of urban recreational league in your area open to registrants for all kinds of sports. Otherwise, check your local community centre for open gyms or drop in sessions they have scheduled during the week.
  2. Swimming. Men’s Journal claims that swimming is one of the best (and hardest) workouts you can do. It is a purely individual exercise that allows you to push yourself to your desired limit. This sport parallels running with how many calories you burn, engages the entire body, and is gentle on the joints compared to other active options. Check your local YMCA or aquatic centre to see where your closest lap pool is.
  3. Boxing. The Wall Street Journal called boxing the best workout of 2019 for a reason. This sport focuses on balancing both the mental and physical benefits as it is very tactical and forces you to be present. Boxing is a targeted exercise focusing primarily on the legs and core and resembles a HIIT workout in many ways. It’s also incredibly addictive.

Why wait until January to start your New Year’s resolution? With all the options out there, you can kick-start your year by already being engaged in a consistent exercise routine that’ll have you feeling and looking great year-round. And remember, in case you ever fall into a rut, take Alessandra’s advice:

“For me, it’s all about remembering my ‘WHY.’ Why did I have the thought of working out? Why did I start my journey in the first place? I try to let my ‘WHY’ motivate me to pursue, or continue to pursue my goals.

The hardest part of going to the gym, yoga or fitness classes is simply getting yourself there. Find a way that motivates you to get to those places. Sometimes, that can be putting on a motivating playlist or treating yourself to coffee afterwards.

Associate the idea of working out to self-care, stress relief, and confidence boosting. Make a commitment to invest in yourself. Your health and wellbeing means more than anything.”

Disclaimer: The recommendations and opinions listed in this article are written with the intention to support healthy living and are not medical claims. There is a possibility of injury with each suggestion listed. Please consult a medical professional for any questions or concerns regarding the medical implications that exist with each recommendation in this article.