When the clocks went back in October, regular gym-goers not only received an extra hour of sleep but some extra square footage in the gym too. Year after year, cold nights and dark mornings smother summer's good intentions in duvets and buttery toast, leaving a noticeably quieter gym for the thick-skinned to persevere with their fitness goals.
Winter, even with its biting frost and Arctic winds, is a great time of year to workout and even has some seasonal benefits over the sunnier months.
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Summer bodies are made in winter
Yes, it sounds like something a smug gym addict exercising on Christmas Day would say, but it's true. How many of us have been caught out by a premature burst of sunshine and wished we were better prepared for having swimsuits foisted upon us? Putting in the effort six weeks before we step on the plane is too little too late.
A successful exercise and diet programme takes time and consistency, and is far easier to maintain when progressed over a reasonable length of time rather than sudden death by salad leaves and sit-ups. Having a healthy routine of eating and exercising well year round will have far better pay-off, building the foundations over the winter months to reap rewards next summer.
Greater gains in less time
If you need motivation to get outside and train, it helps to know that the cold weather will actually improve your workout and increase your gains.
If you are a runner, then you are more likely to beat your personal best in the winter. The lower the temperature, the greater the effect on your time. You can expect to improve your time by over 8% when the temperature hits zero.
The cold requires your body to increase its metabolic rate, meaning you will burn - albeit marginally - more calories. If telling yourself that the cold will make you slimmer, go for it (but don't forget to still wrap up warm).
A new state of mind
If your new personal best doesn't improve your mood, the rush of endorphins will. Because your body has to work harder in the cold, your endorphin production increases, leading to a happier state of mind. This is particularly good for the one in six people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), further boosted by being out in natural daylight.
Win first place
If you're a goal-orientated person, then park striving for a six pack to one side and instead think about crossing the finish line at any number of winter sporting events that are taking place across the country.
Relish the cold, wind, rain and mud and get your hands and gym trainers dirty. Upcoming events that will put your fitness levels to the test include:
- F.E.A.R, Chesterfield
- Grim Challenge Original, Aldershot
- Judgement Day Team Challenge, Surrey
- McTough Guy Scotland, Dunfermline
- Winter Ram Run, Midlands
For those looking to sport a more muscular physique next summer, the winter period is a great time to do a bulking cycle. Bulking means consuming more calories than needed for maintenance, allowing the body to pack on size. Just make sure it's a clean bulk - fizzy drinks and pizza will skyrocket both your calorie intake and your waistline - and consider your macros.
A calorific surplus has two consequences. One is an increase in body fat, so don't neglect your cardio. The second is more fuel to perform a successful strength-building programme in the gym. Now is the season for performing big compound exercises, such as squats and deadlifts and barbell presses. Rope in a personal trainer to show you how to do them correctly to avoid being bed-bound over Christmas.
When spring comes around, you can look at cutting the calories down and turning your attentions to hypertrophy, resulting in a lean, muscular physique by summer.
Photo credit: TRAINFITNESS
So, before you decide to skip the gym for another episode of The Crown under the blankets, lace up your trainers, embrace the cold and look forward to achieving your fitness goals. Summer will be here before you know it.Suggest a correction