Ways to Stay Fit in the Winter

For even the most ardent of fitness enthusiasts, the winter months tend to be a dedication-draining time of year. Dark sky for the morning commute and any existence of the sun is long gone on the ride home from work. Not only is Jack Frost nipping at your nose, he might also be packing pounds onto your stomach or backside.

The holidays don’t help either. Gift shopping can easily replace an evening workout while Christmas parties present a mine field of belly-busting dangers.  A few extra helpings here. Sampling one (or five) desserts there. And who can resist throwing back a few glasses of eggnog?

So if you fear waking up to a lack of motivation and an expanding waist line in your stocking on Christmas morning, here are a handful of ideas to keep the pounds off and the gym flame burning this winter.

Hire a Personal Trainer

Personal trainers do far more than just count repetitions. The right one will teach you proper lifting technique (form is everything) while designing workout regimens that will increase your fitness and add strength along with counseling you about proper nutrition. Your body is like a furnace and the right foods keep the fire burning.

The best trainers are also master motivators. They know when to push and when to back off. Trainers also provide accountability. If you’re sticking to your workouts and eating healthy foods, your trainer will know. If you’re not, there will certainly be more cardio in your future.

Mix Up Your Routine

Variety is the spice of life. That doesn’t apply to just pizza toppings and beer. If you’re a creature of habit (a lot of fitness disciples are), repeating the same routines over and over will sink your motivation. So, step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Check the schedule at your health club for calorie-torching classes such as cardio kickboxing or studio cycling. After 60 minutes on the stationary bike, watch the sweat pour off you.

Other training styles such as interval and Tabata offer different combinations of weights and cardio that will leave you physically drained but mentally recharged. Or, completely overhaul your gym schedule by working out first thing in the morning. There’s nothing like crawling out of bed early enough to find yourself cracking a sweat by 5:00 AM. A good, hard workout will stir up that endorphins pot so by the time you get to work, you’re mentally on fire!

Bikram Yoga

Counteract the bone-chilling effects of winter with sweat-inducing heat. Did I mention each class is 90 minutes long in a 104 degree room? This style of yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhury. It’s 26 postures that give your body an entire workout while benefitting your internal organs, veins and ligaments. And for the guys, don’t turn your nose up because this is yoga. You’ll work as hard as you ever have with any of your usual routines.

Hard Work Pays Off

Toiling in the gym for hours a day, weeks on end, all year long is demanding and challenging from a physical and mental standpoint. The reward for such dedication pays off in the form of reaching your desired fitness goals: weight loss, increasing your bench press, or having that bikini body when beach season rolls around. So why not pay yourself monetarily too for all of your sweat?

Get yourself a Health and Wellness Jar (yes, I have one). Use a ceramic jar with a cork top, a child’s piggy bank, or stuff a sock under your mattress. The concept is simple. After each workout, place a dollar (or more if you choose) in your jar. Let it sit there. Before you realize, you’ll have a pile of cash that you’ve earned through hard work and dedication. Staying loyal to your gym routine will pay off quite nicely!

Be Good to Yourself

Being committed to your fitness plan isn’t easy. The daily complications of life see to that. So reward yourself for staying the course. Get a massage once a month. Find a local spa that has hot tubs and give those sore muscles a well-earned soak. Splurge on your favorite not-so-healthy meal every so often. Or save up your Health and Wellness Jar funds to spend on something you’ve wanted but couldn’t quite work into the budget.

The bitter cold and snow is upon us. That’s a battle Old Man Winter wins every year. But that doesn’t mean your fitness level has to drop like the temperature. With the right planning, determination and good old stick-to-itive-ness, you’ll be in your best shape ever!

Death, Taxes, and the New Year’s Resolutioners

If you’ve lived long enough, you’re well aware that life is filled with certainties.  Death and taxes.  Lindsay Lohan getting hauled in front of a judge.  One of the Jersey Shore-ons disgracing Italians more than they already have.

But for the fitness freaks, the health nuts, and even the knucklehead muscle-heads, there’s one dreaded certainty that occurs every winter as December morphs into January, a Ryan Seacrest sighting on New Year’s Eve aside.

The return of the insufferable New Year’s Resolutioners.

Rest assured you’re not alone in your misery.  Regular gym-goers everywhere are all too familiar with the grim look of emotional distress displayed on your face at this moment.

As you tend to your daily routine, take a look at your surroundings.  Focus not only on those in your life but also the people you cross paths with everyday if only for an instant.  Observe how many of them are overweight.  I don’t mean the ones who could stand to drop ten pounds.  I am talking about those folks who are at least 50 pounds too heavy.

Now think about how many errands we’re capable of running without pealing our rumps from the car.  We get coffee, bank, buy lunch, and pick up prescriptions.  Some restaurants have call ahead curb side take-out.  A member of the wait staff will deliver your food to you as you sit in a designated parking space because, you know, the thought of actually venturing into the restaurant to get the order is painstakingly excruciating.

Never mind all the time wasted driving around in search of a parking space close to the store.  In the extra time we spend seeking out that ever-so-precious commodity, we could’ve walked to the store from a spot that isn’t as close as we feel we’re entitled to.

Honestly, when did removing our ever-widening backsides from our cars to walk a few extra steps become such a miscarriage of justice?  The verdict is in.  The metamorphosis is complete.  We’ve become a lazy country whose waist lines are expanding faster than the national debt.

Now, before I go any further, let me clarify a couple of points.

As someone who used to have no use for lifting weights, and, frankly, was intimidated by a lack of strength, I have all the respect in the world for anyone who is at the gym working hard to try to make a positive healthy change to his or her life.

Secondly, sticking to a workout schedule day after day when you have a significant amount of weight to lose is a daunting task.  Let’s face facts.  Society thumbs its collective nose at over-weight people.  One way of dealing with our own insecurities is to highlight those of others.  No one relishes being stared at, well, except if you’re as insecure and narcissistic as the Kardashians.

To those of you determined to finally take control of your health by making the necessary lifestyle changes, I applaud you.  Keep it up.  Let no one and nothing halt you.  You will encounter many highs and lows on your journey.  It won’t be easy, but if you stay the course, you’ll succeed.

Unfortunately, the number of you who will actually stick with it and transform your lives is few and far between.  Most Resolutioners are gone by March.

As for the rest of the Resolutioners, we don’t mind you joining the gym.  Understand this though.  There’s a certain protocol you need to adhere.  Let’s set some ground rules.

Before even entering the building, you manage to hack off a large contingent of regulars with your parking lot faux pas.  It’s very simple:  Stop taking all the spaces closest to the building.

You all are the ones who are woefully out of shape.  So why are you hell bent on minimizing your walk to the door?  I don’t care if it’s cold out.  Check that.  I don’t care if you’re cold.

We regulars are the ones who hit the gym six days a week year round.  We’re the ones who crawl out of bed at five in the morning on weekdays just to fit in an extra half hour on the stair-master before work beckons.  We’re the ones who sneak in a workout on Thanksgiving morning so we can have a large piece of pumpkin pie later that day without guilt pangs overtaking us like (insert dominant world power here) versus France’s military.  And we’re the ones who don’t slack off in the summer even though there are so many other places we’d rather be than cracking a sweat on the elliptical machine.

So explain to me how that entitles you newbies to all the good spaces while I trudge through the crappily plowed parking lot when the thermometer barely cracks double digits and the inside of my nose is frozen all the way up to my brain.  Hint.  It doesn’t.  So have a good time hauling your lazy rump from the other side of the parking lot to the door and stay out of my space.

Now that that’s settled, let’s move on.

OK, you’ve made it into the building, swiped your key tag, and now it’s off to the locker room.

Much like the stunt you pulled in the parking lot, you’re up to the same shenanigans in the locker room.

The lockers at my gym come in three sizes:  large, medium, and small.  Or, like Goldilocks and her porridge, too hot, too cold, and just right.

The large lockers (too hot) are a bit of overkill but they do serve the purpose of having plenty of length to hang clothes one wouldn’t want wrinkled.  Most of those appear to be rented out by regular patrons as there always seem to be locks on them no matter the time of day.

The small lockers (too cold) are the text book definition of wasted space.  You couldn’t even stuff an Oompa Loompa in one of those things.

The medium lockers (just right) are the perfect blend of adequate size for a change of clothes and the accompanying gym bag.  They happen to be the most popular, so of course, they vanish the fastest.

Guess which size locker I prefer?

Now guess which size locker the Resolutioners all take.

Curses.  Foiled again.

Opening six or seven lockers just to find an empty one is a daily occurrence.  And it’s usually a small empty one.  Too cold!

First it was the prime parking spaces.  The best lockers were next on the hit list.  I’ve yet to curl a single dumbbell and these exercise neophytes have already ruined every aspect (so far) of my gym experience for that particular day.  What, pray tell, could these wretched newbies possibly target next?

Cardio and weight machines, of course.

Lifting weights before cardio won’t result in encountering too many Resolutioners on the weight room floor since your typical one tends to focus mostly on cardio.  Instead, a far greater (and vastly more annoying) challenge waits.  The return of the Weekend Warrior Tough Guy.

You know the type.

These jokers strut around like they own the place, grunt as if they suffer from chronic constipation, and slam weights as often as politicians give non-answers to difficult questions.  The Weekend Warrior Tough Guys register a lone notch above the Resolutioners on the aggravation scale because though they impede your workout, they aren’t the total hindrance the newbies are.

That leaves the cardio machines as the final Resolutioner frontier.

Here’s the rub.  The cardio section of any gym on a weeknight right after work draws a crowd bigger than Wal-Mart on Black Friday.

Treadmills.  Taken.  Elliptical machines.  No vacancy.  Stair-masters.  Occupied.  Stationary bikes.  No soup for you.

Dealing with a cardio section that’s more crowded than the supermarket deli line on a Saturday morning would be so much more palatable if the Resolutioners camped out on said machines would perform one simple task:

Crack. A. Sweat.

Look, if the pace you’re pedaling, jogging, etc. is the equivalent of a driver going 55 in the passing line, then you need to heed this advice:

Get the hell off the machine!

Arms and legs are capable of different movements and speeds.  If your desired goal is to lose weight, then calories burned needs to exceed daily caloric intake.  This mission is easily accomplished by putting down the donut and picking up the pace of your stride.  While a sweat-stained shirt might be an irritant to one’s delicate sense of smell, it’s one of the big guns in the war on fat.

To my fellow gym nuts, as the Resolutioners begin their annual pilgrimage of I came, I tried, I packed it in after two months, remember that patience is a virtue.

And March will be here before you know it.