5 Tips to Stay Motivated for Training During the Winter

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I’m a child of Michigan. If you live in Northville, Plymouth, or Novi you know that there are plenty of great areas to get a workout outside, and from April all the way to November (depending on whenever the snow gets here), the sidewalks are flooded with people walking their dogs or going for a run. It may sound a bit corny, but it’s nice to see people outside being active. In fact, it can even be motivating.

My love for the outdoors can even extend into winter. I had the luxury of grandparents who lived off a small lake and I’m pretty sure I spent more time wearing ice skates than I did shoes because I loved playing some pond hockey. There was also plenty of terrain with hills that made for awesome sledding – and my grandmother would cringe when I would try to ride the sled like a surfboard.

However, in the last few years, something has changed. I no longer like the winter. The days are short, the cold feels bitter, and it’s pretty tough to stay motivated. But we don’t want to workout all year long and then let all that hard work go to waste because of the winter, do we? After all, the more you do something the more it becomes ingrained as a habit. Sport psychologists refer to this as behavioral patterns: the things that we do consistently and regularly will affect our motivation (1). Seeking out a challenge and trying hard depicts someone of high motivation, while sitting on the couch and blazing through every season of The Office isn’t exactly going to leave you very fired up. So if you want that beach body come May, the work you put in during the winter can pay off tremendously.

In order to keep those workouts going through the winter, try some of these tips and see what works for you.

Set a challenge – Want to stay motivated? Give yourself a challenge. Remember Rocky? Rocky Balboa managed to train hard through a Russian winter (for a fight scheduled on Christmas) against a Soviet superstar in Ivan Drago. If boxing a chemically enhanced fighter isn’t exactly your cup of tea, set a challenge that you want to accomplish by year’s end. Maybe you want to gain five pounds of lean mass or increase your deadlift by 50 pounds. Whatever it may be, set the challenge, create a deadline, and commit to it.

Learn something – The winter is a time when things slow down, and our calendars aren’t as crowded with social commitments. Many clients schedule more workouts just because they want something to do. Use this time to pick up a new skill, such as the Olympic lifts. The Olympic lifts, like the clean and the snatch, are very technical and take a long time to learn. But they’re also a blast – nothing feels better than launching a heavy weight over your head and standing there triumphantly. Use this cold weather to learn these lifts and you can then utilize them in the Summer.

Try something new – Maybe you spent the entire Fall running long distances? It may be time for some serious strength training. Or, perhaps a powerlifter needs to take the winter off and do some circuit training to lose some weight. Whatever the case may be, use the winter to do something that you haven’t done before. Who knows, you may fall in love with your newfound interest.

Keep them short, sweet…and intense – Intense interval training sessions are great at accelerating fat loss, controlling hormones such as insulin, and developing a little bit of muscle. They’re also short and sweet – so if the thought of a 60 minute workout while it’s single digits outside doesn’t exactly motivate you, a 20 minute workout may do the trick. If your gym provides them , you can get great workouts in with battle ropes, tires, and sleds. If you don’t have access to these things, then do some calisthenics, jump rope, or shuttle runs.

Invest in a home gym – Like spending money? Want to go shopping even after all that Christmas madness? Or maybe you have some gift cards that you have no idea what to do with? Buying more ‘stuff’ when you probably already have enough ‘stuff,’ could be considered a waste. Instead, try to design your own home gym. You can plan out the equipment you want to buy, map out the space, decorate it with Rocky IV posters – whatever you want. You’d be surprised what you can do with a kettlebell, medicine ball, and pair of dumbbells.


Is winter the best time in the world to train? Maybe not, but it’s certainly not the worst time either. Try to stay motivated this winter and your spring will be a lot more enjoyable.



1. Williams, Jean M. ed. Applied Sport Psychology: Personal Growth to Peak Performance. 6th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2010. pp 60

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