How to Stay Motivated to Work Out When It's Cold, Dark and Miserable

Overview
PREV
1 of 11
START
Man working out outside in the winter doing push-ups

Let's be honest: When the weather outside is frightful, you just want to be inside next to that oh-so-delightful fire. The colder and darker the days get, the less and less you feel like hitting the gym, which is totally understandable.

After all, the winter brings on a decline in vitamin D and serotonin levels — not to mention the increase in levels of drowse-inducing melatonin — that can make just getting to the gym feel like a workout in itself, says Barbara Walker, Ph.D., a sports psychologist with the Center for Human Performance in Cincinnati. Put these 10 tips into practice, though, and winter weather is less likely to stand between you and your workout.

Credit: baranq/Adobe Stock

Let's be honest: When the weather outside is frightful, you just want to be inside next to that oh-so-delightful fire. The colder and darker the days get, the less and less you feel like hitting the gym, which is totally understandable.

After all, the winter brings on a decline in vitamin D and serotonin levels — not to mention the increase in levels of drowse-inducing melatonin — that can make just getting to the gym feel like a workout in itself, says Barbara Walker, Ph.D., a sports psychologist with the Center for Human Performance in Cincinnati. Put these 10 tips into practice, though, and winter weather is less likely to stand between you and your workout.

1. Put the Thermostat on a Timer

Man adjusting temperature with thermostat at home

Trying to get out of your warm, cozy bed on a cold winter day is extremely difficult. Ease the pain — and the temptation to snooze through your morning workouts — by setting your thermostat so that your house starts warming up about an hour before wakeup time, recommends personal trainer Lisa Niren, certified personal trainer, an instructor at CycleBar and CITYROW in New York City.

While, according to the National Sleep Foundation, bedroom temps of 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal when you're asleep, higher temps (or a warmed home) can promote wakefulness and help you get out of bed in the morning.

Credit: RossHelen/iStock/GettyImages

Trying to get out of your warm, cozy bed on a cold winter day is extremely difficult. Ease the pain — and the temptation to snooze through your morning workouts — by setting your thermostat so that your house starts warming up about an hour before wakeup time, recommends personal trainer Lisa Niren, certified personal trainer, an instructor at CycleBar and CITYROW in New York City.

While, according to the National Sleep Foundation, bedroom temps of 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal when you're asleep, higher temps (or a warmed home) can promote wakefulness and help you get out of bed in the morning.

2. Get Outside

Portrait of young woman jogging in winter forest

Regularly spending time in nature — no matter the season — is vital to keeping your energy levels up and you in the right mindset to stick with your workouts, says Niren. Yes, even if that means snot-cicles form in your nostrils.

In fact, a December 2014 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found people have more genetic markers for brown fat in the winter, which could mean a higher calorie burn. Just make sure you've got the gear to keep you safe and warm, whatever the weather.

Read more: How to Find the Best Outdoor Workout for Every Fitness Style

Credit: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages

Regularly spending time in nature — no matter the season — is vital to keeping your energy levels up and you in the right mindset to stick with your workouts, says Niren. Yes, even if that means snot-cicles form in your nostrils.

In fact, a December 2014 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found people have more genetic markers for brown fat in the winter, which could mean a higher calorie burn. Just make sure you've got the gear to keep you safe and warm, whatever the weather.

Read more: How to Find the Best Outdoor Workout for Every Fitness Style

3. Try Something New

Very fast snowboarder slides at ski slope

"Think of winter as a chance to take a break from your regular workout and keep things interesting," says Walker. "For example, if you usually run, this is a great time to strength train." And take advantage of things you can only do during the winter like snowboarding, skiing and snowshoeing.

After all, switching up your workout routine every six to eight weeks can help prevent plateaus and boredom, Walker says. Plus, simply taking your outdoor workouts indoors can feel like a bummer.

Credit: molchanovdmitry/iStock/GettyImages

"Think of winter as a chance to take a break from your regular workout and keep things interesting," says Walker. "For example, if you usually run, this is a great time to strength train." And take advantage of things you can only do during the winter like snowboarding, skiing and snowshoeing.

After all, switching up your workout routine every six to eight weeks can help prevent plateaus and boredom, Walker says. Plus, simply taking your outdoor workouts indoors can feel like a bummer.

4. Hit the Lights

Woman waking up in the morning to get ready to do her workout

If you have trouble making your early-morning workouts because it still looks like the middle of the night outside, 'tis the season to gift yourself a light-emitting alarm clock, says Niren. These clocks gradually increase the amount of light in your bedroom over the course of 30 minutes before sounding.

That way, when it's actually time to wake up, you've already basked in wakefulness-promoting, short-wavelength (aka blue) light, she says. In one International Journal of Endocrinology study from July 2012, subjects who woke up to bright, short-wavelength light exhibited hormone levels that were significantly more conducive to getting up and at 'em.

Credit: Dash/Adobe Stock

If you have trouble making your early-morning workouts because it still looks like the middle of the night outside, 'tis the season to gift yourself a light-emitting alarm clock, says Niren. These clocks gradually increase the amount of light in your bedroom over the course of 30 minutes before sounding.

That way, when it's actually time to wake up, you've already basked in wakefulness-promoting, short-wavelength (aka blue) light, she says. In one International Journal of Endocrinology study from July 2012, subjects who woke up to bright, short-wavelength light exhibited hormone levels that were significantly more conducive to getting up and at 'em.

5. Kick the Low-Carb Diet

Sweet potato french fries on a brown paper bag backgrond

During the winter, levels of mood-boosting serotonin can drop along with the daylight, partially explaining the winter blues and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that stand between many exercisers and their fitness habits, says Los Angeles-based trainer Holly Perkins, CSCS, author of Lift to Get Lean.

"Luckily, you can definitely hack your serotonin levels nutritionally," she says. In fact, carbohydrate intake can promote healthy serotonin levels and insufficient carbohydrate intake has been linked to depressive symptoms like fatigue. Perkins recommends turning to carbs like oats, sweet potatoes, brown rice and fruits for your serotonin boost. Bonus: They'll help fuel your workouts for better results.

Read more: 6 Reasons the Keto Diet Is NOT for You

Credit: Brent Hofacker/Adobe Stock

During the winter, levels of mood-boosting serotonin can drop along with the daylight, partially explaining the winter blues and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that stand between many exercisers and their fitness habits, says Los Angeles-based trainer Holly Perkins, CSCS, author of Lift to Get Lean.

"Luckily, you can definitely hack your serotonin levels nutritionally," she says. In fact, carbohydrate intake can promote healthy serotonin levels and insufficient carbohydrate intake has been linked to depressive symptoms like fatigue. Perkins recommends turning to carbs like oats, sweet potatoes, brown rice and fruits for your serotonin boost. Bonus: They'll help fuel your workouts for better results.

Read more: 6 Reasons the Keto Diet Is NOT for You

6. Sign Up for a Competition

People running a winter marathon in the snow

Whether you register for an indoor triathlon, powerlifting meet or spring race, having a goal (and a deadline) will help keep you motivated and looking ahead with your workouts, says Niren.

Specific goals — like completing a St. Patty's race on March 17 — are much more motivating than vague ones without deadlines. Opt to train for an event at which you feel reasonably capable. Confidence in your ability is the number-one determiner of how hard and often you work out, according to a December 2013 review published in the Journal of Sports and Exercise Psychology.

Credit: vgajic/E+/GettyImages

Whether you register for an indoor triathlon, powerlifting meet or spring race, having a goal (and a deadline) will help keep you motivated and looking ahead with your workouts, says Niren.

Specific goals — like completing a St. Patty's race on March 17 — are much more motivating than vague ones without deadlines. Opt to train for an event at which you feel reasonably capable. Confidence in your ability is the number-one determiner of how hard and often you work out, according to a December 2013 review published in the Journal of Sports and Exercise Psychology.

7. Take a Heated Class

Group of sporty people in paschimottanasana exercise

If you've been curious about hot yoga, now's the season to check it out, says Walker. Meanwhile, if yoga isn't your thing, you can also get your sweat on with heated indoor cycling, TRX and barre classes.

"The high-temp classes can be a welcome break from the cold outside," she says. Bonus: The accountability of group classes can give you the extra dose of motivation you need to brave the elements to and from the gym.

Credit: fizkes/iStock/GettyImages

If you've been curious about hot yoga, now's the season to check it out, says Walker. Meanwhile, if yoga isn't your thing, you can also get your sweat on with heated indoor cycling, TRX and barre classes.

"The high-temp classes can be a welcome break from the cold outside," she says. Bonus: The accountability of group classes can give you the extra dose of motivation you need to brave the elements to and from the gym.

8. Post a Pic on Your Fridge

Group of young people posing for a selfie in gym

According February 2015 research published in the journal Memory, simply recalling an awesome workout experience can significantly boost your motivation to hit the gym today.

Try posting a picture of yourself from a past fun run or even a gym selfie (like the one you took after mastering your first pull-up!) to your refrigerator, recommends Kansas City-based exercise physiologist Greg Justice, CPT, author of Mind Over Fatter. It'll help keep you tuned in to how fun fitness can be — and how fit you were over the summer.

Credit: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages

According February 2015 research published in the journal Memory, simply recalling an awesome workout experience can significantly boost your motivation to hit the gym today.

Try posting a picture of yourself from a past fun run or even a gym selfie (like the one you took after mastering your first pull-up!) to your refrigerator, recommends Kansas City-based exercise physiologist Greg Justice, CPT, author of Mind Over Fatter. It'll help keep you tuned in to how fun fitness can be — and how fit you were over the summer.

9. Watch Some Reruns

Women running on the treadmill while watching TV

It might sound silly, but if you find yourself trapped on the "dreadmill" this winter, tuning to some of your favorite reruns can help boost your workout willpower, according to an August 2012 study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science. Researchers believe that your favorite fictional characters serve as surrogate workout buddies. That's good news if your friends don't share your enthusiasm for sweating it out this winter.

Read more: 9 Ways to Make Running on a Treadmill WAY More Fun

Credit: RuslanDashinsky/E+/GettyImages

It might sound silly, but if you find yourself trapped on the "dreadmill" this winter, tuning to some of your favorite reruns can help boost your workout willpower, according to an August 2012 study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science. Researchers believe that your favorite fictional characters serve as surrogate workout buddies. That's good news if your friends don't share your enthusiasm for sweating it out this winter.

Read more: 9 Ways to Make Running on a Treadmill WAY More Fun

10. Identify Your True “Why”

Woman thinking about her workout motivation during an outdoor run

All of the motivation tricks in the world won't get you to the gym season after season if you haven't figured out your deep-down reason for being active, says Perkins. "You have to be 100-percent connected to your 'why,'" she says.

Think through the most meaningful reason (or reasons) you want to be consistent with your workouts over the winter — and then write them down. Keep your reasons displayed on your nightstand or snap a photo of them to use as your phone background, she says.

Credit: finwal89/Adobe Stock

All of the motivation tricks in the world won't get you to the gym season after season if you haven't figured out your deep-down reason for being active, says Perkins. "You have to be 100-percent connected to your 'why,'" she says.

Think through the most meaningful reason (or reasons) you want to be consistent with your workouts over the winter — and then write them down. Keep your reasons displayed on your nightstand or snap a photo of them to use as your phone background, she says.

16 Simple Tips to Stay Fit This Winter

Credit: baranq/Adobe Stock
1 of 11
PARTNER & LICENSEE OF THE LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.