Winter Motivation

Winter Motivation

Sticking with your workout routine is not so easy in December.

There are presents to buy and parties to attend. It’s also cold and dark, and there’s snow on the ground. All that makes it hard to get out for a run or to the gym for an exercise class.

But let the exercise slide for a month -- combined with lots of cookies and eggnog -- and picking up in January where you left off in November is going to feel like a real struggle. Not to mention that you probably won’t like what your scale will be telling you.

Ashley Wisniewski of Champaign is not slacking off this month. In fact, she’s exercising more than usual.

She and three teammates are part of a Winter Blast Challenge at the Mettler Center in Champaign. The challenge is to encourage members to stick to their exercise routines during the holidays, said Joy Sheehan, manager of fitness and wellness at the Mettler Center.

She hoped to get 10 teams of four for the challenge. She ended up with 24 teams. Each team member paid $5 to register for the challenge. Mettler matches that amount, and the winning team splits the pot of money.

The challenge began Nov. 29 and ends Monday. Teams keep track of the number of minutes they work out at Mettler, either in exercise classes or using weights or cardio machines. The team with the most minutes wins.

“It has been absolutely crazy,” Sheehan said. “Even on the blizzard day (Dec. 12), we had people in here working out so they could get their minutes.

“The hype it’s created, the energy, the extra buzz -- people are wanting to get in here more.”

A little friendly competition -- whether it’s a bet with a friend, an online fitness challenge or a team challenge like the Winter Blast -- is a good way to keep yourself motivated to exercise, according to fitness experts.

So is working out with someone else, whether it’s meeting a friend for a spinning class or a run, playing on a volleyball team, or participating in a team challenge. Find a training partner or atmosphere that’s supportive and encouraging, and that will also provide discipline and accountability for sticking with your exercise routine. If you don’t have someone whose schedule coordinates with yours, try an online fitness message board or challenge.

Wisniewski admitted she might have slacked off a bit without the challenge.

“There’s been a number of times, especially on the weekends, where I think, ‘Oh, I could be going Christmas shopping. I could be baking cookies,’” she said. “I think the challenge really forces you to make time for yourself and do something good for your body, which is really easy to forget to do, especially this time of year.”

Wisniewski has also tried classes she never would have considered before. She regularly did spinning, yoga and a strength class, as well as working out on various cardio machines. But now she’s also tried Zumba (a fitness class that incorporates Latin music and dance) and PiYo (a blend of Pilates and yoga).

“A personal challenge I made for myself was to broaden my horizons with my fitness routine and try new things,” she said.

She was hesitant about Zumba. “I’d never really done that type of dance before. I was thinking, ‘I’m going to look like a huge idiot.’

“I kind of felt like I was in a workout rut,” Wisniewski said. “Trying out new classes and doing different things has really helped me get out of that rut and shown me it’s more than just running on the treadmill.”

That approach is also recommended by fitness experts. They say you should find something that’s fun. If you do something you enjoy, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

Here are some other suggestions for keeping up your motivation to exercise:

-- Set realistic goals. If you need to cut back on exercise during busy times, you can do so and still maintain fitness, as long as you keep up a certain level of intensity and duration for your workouts.

-- Keep track of your progress, and reward yourself for reaching a goal.

-- Schedule your workouts in advance. If they are on your calendar, they’ll become one of your priorities for your day.

-- Commit to training for an event a couple months away.

-- Don’t feel guilty about taking time to exercise, even during the busy holiday season. Realize exercise reduces stress and helps keep up your energy level.

-- If you don’t feel like exercising, tell yourself you’ll do just one set of your favorite exercises or run one mile. Once you get started, chances are you’ll complete your full workout.

Wisniewski hopes to keep up the exercise habits she’s established for the Winter Blast Challenge.

“It’s a competition and it’s a challenge, and many of us are clocking extra minutes of exercise that we’re not used to,” she said. “But it also gets us into a fitness routine that we want to maintain after this is over.”

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