Even for early risers  – functioning in the dark for three hours before sunrise and barely getting off work before sunset is just ridiculous. Ugh! I can see how even the most optimistic person could struggle with the changes in temperature, shortened daylight hours, and the dip in motivation.

Well, if you’re a follower of my Facebook and Instagram accounts, you’ll see very quickly that I’m a year-round athlete. I laugh in people’s faces when they ask the questions I’ve heard countless times…

“What are you training for?”

“When’s your next race?”

“Do you ever sleep?”

“Do you have an off season?”

Dr. Shaunna Gold

CRUSH Columnist Dr. Shaunna Payne Gold

It’s rare that I work out less than 5 days a week, year-round. When I take extended days of rest, it’s usually no longer than 2 – 3 days of rest at a time. Even then, it’s circumstantial. Unsafe weather, impassable trails, or last-minute emergencies for my children may be a reason for me to go more than a few days without breaking a sweat. I’ve now stuck to this schedule for about four years, regardless of weather. Sun, rain, snow, high temperatures, and low temperatures – you name it, I’ve pressed through it. The only time I’ve pressed pause on a workout due to weather was for a lightning storm. Even then I had my face pressed against the window like, “I can probably go outside in about an hour.” Yeah, nah.

Given that it ain’t easy being a year-round athlete, I thought I’d put together some tried and true strategies for maintaining your mojo even the middle of autumn and winter doldrums:

Mark your calendar.

If you’re familiar with the Farmer’s Almanac, it will tell you that seasons have different lengths. However, we can guesstimate that autumn and winter combined have about 180 days. That’s about 6 months of adjustments. This is a good amount of time to either set some new goals or fall completely off the wagon. The challenge with falling off is picking back up. Consistency is the name of the game here. Whether you need to adjust the time, the location, or your training partners, be flexible enough to plot out calculated adjustments for autumn and winter. As the saying goes – be inflexible with your goals, but flexible with your strategies.

Check your wardrobe.

For those who are hardcore about working out year-round, we agree that the only difference between summer and winter is a good tech wardrobe. Base layer shirts, hats, mittens, socks, facemasks, and windbreakers. These are just a few suggestions, but be sure to stock up on what makes you most comfortable during your favorite outdoor workouts. Many people choose to take their workouts inside or abandon them entirely because they do not have the wardrobe they need to remain consistent. Shop around during the summer for winter gear when such items are on sale.

Beef up your safety gear.

If you choose to maintain a consistent outdoor workout, the sun is not going to cooperate. Shorter days mean that early morning and late evening workouts will be dark, so you’ll need to add to your safety gear. When investing in a winter wardrobe, pick up items that have a lot of reflective qualities and bright colors. Nike Flash, RUseeN, and BSeen are just a few companies that specialize in reflective gear. Reflective vests, headlamps, hand torches, knuckle lights, and shoe reflectors are just a few items which will make you visible to drivers and pedestrians. They will also help you to see for foot placement or cycling if you are a multi-sport athlete. See and be seen with your safety gear.

Don’t nix the nutrition.

I know, I know, I know. I’m one to talk. As much as I love good food, the reality is that you truly cannot outwork a bad diet. I know you’re saying, “But…but…but… we don’t want no salad and ice water in winter!” I gotcha. I’m from the country, so winter food is heavy, fattening, buttery, and anti-athletic. If I had my druthers, I’d be eating chicken and dumplins, creamy soups, saucey casseroles, and warm bread of all varieties. But the way my athleticism is set up? I can’t go that route all winter. Those items are my calculated splurges, not my daily staples. Don’t let your nutrition fall off due to temperature changes. Consider other alternatives like broth based soups, high-protein chilies, and veggie-packed stews. Make small replacements to your traditional recipes such as whole-wheat noodles and grains, roasted veggies instead of cold fresh veggies, and warm breakfasts such as sweet potatoes and steel-cut oatmeal options. Enjoy the fall and winter food favorites. Even dust off that slow cooker to maintain your nutrition while also saving time.

Climb the mountain.

If you are a multi-sport athlete – set your goals for summer and then use the relatively brief fall and winter months to work on all of those fine-tuning skills. You know what I’m talmbout – all of those “little things” that you didn’t have time to focus on during the summer because your race, event, or social schedule was too full. Didn’t have time to learn how to swim as a bilateral breather in the summer? Work on that now. Didn’t have time to work on your running form in the summer? Work on that now. Didn’t have time to test out various nutrition and fuel strategies? Work on that now. Didn’t have time to take that Crossfit class? Work on that now. Whatever mountains you felt were too high to climb during the intensity of a race or competition season, do it now.

These are just a few ways that I keep myself motivated through the fall and winter months. Please – don’t be that person who takes off all winter and then has to almost completely start over in spring. Weather, temperatures, and sunlight waits for no woman. Conditions will never be perfect. I have heard folks say, “It’s too cold!” in winter yet as soon as the sun comes out, “It’s too hot!” in summer. Never satisfied! Keep it moving in winter wonderland.

Dr. Shaunna Payne Gold writes monthly for CRUSH Fitness magazine AND…she’s a U.S. Masters Swimming Certified Coach, Triathlete, Marathoner, Author, Blogger, Educator, & BoyMom, Owner & Founder of SHEro Athletics, LLC

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