There’s no two ways about it, winter is well and truly on its way. But we know that not even the winter can stop our U Perform family. Despite the cold, wind and rain, we know you will continue to exercise and be active. Those goals won’t achieve themselves after all!
But even after all of that, we know that over the course of the next few months we will all suffer the dreaded winter blues. Lack of motivation, focus maybe even injury or illness. We know the feeling. Winter gets us down, right.
So, to get you set up and ready for the tough months ahead we have put together our essential guide to winter training. We’re talking goal setting, training variety and more. Keep reading so you don’t miss out…
As the summer season of competitions, events and well, pleasant weather (sometimes) comes to an end no matter how serious we are about sport, fitness and activity, it can be unbelievably easy to feel demotivated and even depressed as the seasons change. But that’s normal and it’s actually a recognised disorder called SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Exercise, nutrition and the lifestyle we build around those things are crucial for maintaining and even improving our mental health, as well as our physical health too. So to keep those bad habits away, and keep us active we need to think SMART.
But what do we mean when we say SMART goals? Well, SMART goals are a great way to break down our long term plans and aspirations in more manageable and bitesize chunks, helping us to not only track our progress and stay motivated but also to learn to enjoy and celebrate the process of achieving our goals. Including all the little goals we set ourselves along the way!
SMART GOALS are:
Your goal needs to be as specific and as clear as possible, otherwise you won’t be able to fully focus on achieving it. Think about your WHY.
Why do I want to achieve this goal?
What is your overall motivation?
Your goal also needs to be measurable so that you can easily track your progress. This is great for motivation too as you can celebrate every time you hit another checkpoint along the way to your overall goal.
For example, if you are starting a couch to 5km programme like our 8 week ‘U to Running’ there are mini checkpoints along the way to keep you motivated and track your progress.
And if the going gets tough, it is always so rewarding to have a quick look back at how far you really have come!
Your goal should always challenge you, but still be realistic and achievable at the same time.
If you are a first time runner for example who would like to run a marathon, setting yourself smaller goals along the way will encourage you to progress safely and it will be much more rewarding as well.
These could be to run your first 5km, then 10km, then half marathon for example. Each one of these are an incredible achievement in themselves, so definitely worth celebrating!
This will also help you to understand the timeframe for achieving your goal which is another point we will discuss shortly.
Beware also of setting a goal that someone else has control over or even aiming for someone else’s goal.
Teamwork is at the heart of everything we do, even if we don’t realise it. Behind every person is an even better team but it is so important to make sure you are always working towards your own goals and not anybody else’s. Everybody is different and progresses very differently too so we should treat our goals
This brings us back to our first point; to our WHY. This step is all about ensuring that your goal matters to you and that it fits into your routine and lifestyle. One of the common downfalls of most New Year’s resolutions for example, is that they are very hard to maintain.
It can take 21 days for an activity to become a habit. Daily habits executed consistently form sustainable routines that can have an incredible benefit for your overall health, wellness and quality of life.
The more relevant your goal is to you, the better chance you have of achieving it!
This is a pretty obvious one but one that is often overlooked. When you set a goal, set a timeframe or a deadline so that right from the beginning you have a target to work towards.
This will also help you understand whether your goal is actually achievable in that timeframe; bringing it back full circle to our earlier rules that required us to be specific and measurable with our goals.
Planning time for exercise, like we would for anything else in our life, can make a huge difference to our motivation and helps create habits and routines to last a lifetime.
Always be ready to be flexible however. You never know what lies around the corner and our ability to adapt to changes is just as important as setting goals in the first place.
So, first things first then, no matter what you are training for, as we head towards this winter (and if you haven’t already), MAKE A PLAN and set some goals. With a plan comes the direction and focus we all need to keep us on track to achieve our goals. The further ahead you plan, the better. But don’t forget to drop in those smaller goals along that journey so you are always working towards something that is in arm’s reach.
Mixing it up
For endurance athletes in the northern hemisphere in particular, the winter season is often used to build the ‘base’ or the foundations for the upcoming spring and summer season. And for many, this means increasing both the volume and frequency of training. With that comes a great deal of stress and strain on the body. Add in the fact that the winter climate is working against us too, you very quickly start to get an idea why it’s often called ‘The Winter Grind’.
We wake up in the cold and dark. Train in the dark before the rest of our day starts. Then, shelter inside in the warm and dry only to remerge later in the day to, once again (you guessed it) head back out into the cold and dark and train some more. And repeat, 7 days a week.
We might be able to sustain this routine for a few weeks at a time but after that we guarantee that you will start to lose focus, motivation and you may even start to plateau in your training. We don’t want any of those things for ourselves let alone our U Perform family which is why we are huge fans of mixing things up a bit from time to time.
Trying new locations, workouts, heading outdoors in the daylight, or planning time to focus on recovery are all great ways to break the winter grind whilst still proactively moving towards your goals.
Find a friend
It’s a cold, dark and rainy morning. You have a 5km run to do or maybe even a gym session or HIIT class before you start the rest of your day. All we need to do is step out the door and get started. But sometimes we all need a hand.
If we know we have a friend waiting to join us, you are actually both more likely to step out the door and get the work done. It’s a really positive type of peer pressure. A feeling of not wanting your friend down or have to make up another excuse. And no, the dog ate my trainers just doesn’t cut it anymore!
Having a training partner is a great way to engage in healthy physical activity and socialise. It’s a win-win really!
Invest time in warming up – just like a car, your body will take a little bit longer to warm up during the colder months so take that into account when planning time for exercise.
No such thing as poor weather, just poor equipment – now we’ll be honest, this is a little exaggerated but you get our point. If you are heading outdoors (which we highly recommend you do as often and as safely as possible) then dressing for the conditions is the way forward. As a general rule, it is better to have too many layers then not enough as you can always take them off.
And don’t forget to pay extra attention to your extremities (head, hands, and feet) as these radiate a lot of the body heat that you are trying to preserve.
Exercise outdoors during the day – now this isn’t always possible for many of you but where you can we would always recommend heading outdoors during the day to make the most of the very limited daylight we have available to us over the winter months.
There are so many reasons why this is important for our physical AND mental health so where you can, head outdoors and stay active!
There you have it. Our one stop shop to winter training tips, tricks and motivation. But, don’t just take our word for it. Have you got any winter training tips that you think we should include next time? Let us know in the comments below. Don’t forget to share this with someone who you know would benefit from reading this. The U Perform family loves sharing ideas and encouraging each other.