Summer body season starts now. For real. If you seriously want to get fit in time to look good for summer (or simply to get healthy and in shape) the time to start is right now, in the dead of winter.
Why? Well, by the time most people even consider getting into summer-level shape, it's April, which isn't enough time to make any serious gains or lifestyle changes. But summer is currently about five-ish months away, giving you plenty of time to work on your swimsuit bod.
While winter isn't exactly conducive to physical fitness (it's not like you really want to go for a run in negative ten weather) there are a few strategies to employ that'll all but guarantee you get fit during the season.
And no, I'm not a fitness expert, but I am an ex-fat kid who hits the gym 4 or 5 times a week, so I know something about hard work, eating well, and attaining a goal. So from one Montrealer who is already dreaming of turning heads at the beach to another, here are ten tips to help you get fit this winter.
Invest In A Trainer
Admittedly, I used to be incredibly anti-trainer, up until about a month ago.
Because I was in a post-holiday slump and really wanted to kick up my fitness routine to gear up for summer, I got talked into getting a trainer by the gym I recently joined.
I had my reservations, I mean, the only other people I saw with a trainer were old folks who had no clue what they were doing at the gym. That certainly wasn't me, but still, I gave the notion of a trainer the benefit of the doubt and I thought "hey, if the trainer is the worst, I'll just cancel the whole thing."
But I was pleasantly surprised by how effective a trainer can be. Having someone outline a fitness regiment specific to your goals, map out an entire 6-month plan, set attainable goals, and help you properly perform exercises is well worth the $40-$60 (based on the rates at my gym) a trainer costs.
Certain gyms are even equipped with special machines to help you analyze your body's muscle-fat composition and metabolic rate, incredibly useful info in and of itself. And then there's the obvious benefit of having someone motivate you to work out and actually get to the gym.
It's only been about a month since I've been meeting with my trainer (once every couple of weeks) and I've already noticed gains and positive changes, while also increasing my gym knowledge exponentially. So if you're investing time into getting in shape for summer, invest a bit of money too. You won't regret it.
Make An Effort To Go Outside
I know, I know, it's awful and cold outside and all you want to do is stay indoors wrapped in blanket accompanied by some hot chocolate and Netflix. It's the winter state of mind, and it's hard to shake. Still, to max out what winter fitness gains you can make, you practically need to head outdoors.
Go skating, go tobogganing, go snowshoeing, or just go for a walk. Just go outside and actually move around. This is especially important for folks who don't really like the gym, because if you're not exercising outdoors, where the hell are you going to be exercising?
The short answer is, you won't be, and the lack of overall physical activity that comes with winter is why many tend to gain a bit of weight during the season. So layer up, man up, and make an effort to at least do something mildly active outside everyday.
Don’t “Just” Go To The Gym
This point directly ties into the above, but is targeted at people who actually do make it to the gym. Generally, such individuals have the mindset of "oh, I went to the gym today" which will instantly remove any feelings of guilt a person would normally acquire after lazing it up at home all day.
Well let me tell you something: the gym isn't enough.
Don't get me wrong, regularly going to the gym is key to reaching fitness goals (along with your diet) but getting into the mindset that the gym negates all other poor health choices is simply false. Forty-five minutes at the gym does not make up for four hours on the couch.
Think Of Fitness Holistically
All too often I hear people use the term "cheat meal" or "cheat day" to justify a poor dietary choice. I get the practice, as it's supposed to offer a respite from the intensity that is healthy eating. Except, healthy eating shouldn't be a chore, nor does that mentality really help in the long term.
If you were to be thinking in the short term, then yes, "just one" piece of cake (or any other nutritionally valueless food) wouldn't make much of a difference. But you're looking towards summer, which is pretty far away right now. So if we extrapolate that thought across many weeks, that one slice turns into a whole cake, if not more.
Instead of thinking in terms of the day-to-day or week, reorient your thoughts on diet and fitness to a more holistic mindset. That way, you can make more informed decisions and begin to see how simple choices like skipping the gym or gorging for one day a week will actually hurt you in the long run.
Start Waking Up Early
Winter is a sunless, dark place. Which is why you need to get in on all the sunny rays while they're actually beaming across the sky. For many, that simply means getting up much earlier.
Not only does being awake during sunlight hours promote physical activity (nighttime is made for chilling, of course) but the sun's warming light can also play a role in your eating habits, too.
When you're not getting enough sunlight, many can experience a dip in serotonin levels, the body's "happiness" juice. This can lead to bouts of depression (seasonal affective disorder) while also affecting your hunger levels.
See, after satiating your body's need for food, it will later release serotonin to tell you that it's full. If your body already has lower serotonin levels, you can experience a disconnect between when you're actually full and when you "feel" full, leading to overeating.
Then, of course, there's the correlation between feeling crummy and eating more, because food is the answer to all bad moods. Don't fall into either scenario and wake up extra early to get some rays.
Plan Out Your Meals
When you eat is just as important as what you eat, so you should be taking both into consideration when planning out your meals. Yes, the task is mildly tedious and a bit time-consuming, but hey, it's winter, you have time on your hands and it's not like you're going to chill at the park everyday so you tend to know you'll be eating at home.
Important points to remember: prep a proper post-workout snack (100-200 calories with solid amounts of protein and carbs); consume more energy earlier on in the day so your body has time to burn it; eat a solid breakfast to jumpstart your metabolism in the morning; read nutritional labels to weed out the healthy food from the food that only "looks" healthy.
Fall In Love With Soups
Here's a serious wintertime health hack that actually works: soup.
Actually though. Soups are like salads, except way more delicious, comforting, and don't have the whole "look at me I'm healthy I'm eating a salad" aura to them.
Of course, I'm talking more about veggie-based soups than creamy ones or those loaded with cheese. Meat-broth soups are totally okay too, but if you want the most bang for your nutritional buck, make sure to pack 'em with tons of veggies.
So why are soups so great, exactly? Well, not only are they jam-packed with veggie goodness, they're filling, versatile, lack almost any grease or fat, and can be incredibly low-carb and high-protein depending on what you put in.
Better yet, a big batch of soup can last, providing you with a nutritionally sound meal for days. Soup, get into it.
Avoid Drinking If You’re Not Doing Anything
When it's too cold to go outside or really go anywhere, folks in Montreal tend to get into winter drinking mode. By which I mean people just drink in their apartments with friends and don't really go anywhere.
That's totally fine, but alcohol is one of the largest roadblocks when it comes to attaining fitness goals. More than a few drinks on the weekend can offset the calorie deficit you worked so hard on from Monday to Friday, and alcohol can inhibit your body's ability to develop muscle.
The ideal solution would be to give up alcohol for the winter (something I've done, and it's been great) but that's quite a bit to ask for most people. Instead, just change your attitude towards drinking.
Instead of drinking for the sake of it, only imbibe a bit when there's actually something to do. Heading to Igloofest? Great, have a few shots. Staying in the entire night for another round of Jessica Jones? Then maybe resist the urge to have a whole bottle of wine.
All those drinks can add up, so even if you just cut down on alcohol you can be improving your fitness gains on the long-term in a big way.
Let Sleep Help You Lose Weight
If there's one thing winter is good for, it's sleeping like crazy. The cold weather and short days practically promote hibernation. And while I've already stated how you need to get out and do things while the sun is up, you can also use your sleep schedule to lose some unwanted weight.
The trick, however, is going to bed hungry. A daft idea, I know, but by "hungry" I don't mean "starving," but rather that feeling of lightness that you get right before you get famished.
Now, the best way to achieve this is by simple planning. Eat dinner (lighter is better) a bit earlier than you normally would, refrain from any snacking, and when bedtime rears its head you'll probably have a bit of light hunger.
In doing so, your body won't be storing any excess energy when in sleep-mode, as can happen if you eat right before bed. Instead, the opposite will occur, as your body chips away at energy reserves (read: fat) to get it through the night. And when morning comes, you'll be prompted out of bed by your hunger for breakfast, helping you out with getting up early too.
Have A Source Of Motivation
To save the most important for last: you need to have a source of motivation that will actually help you reach your goals.
Obviously, motivation can come in many forms, and all you need to worry about is making sure your "get to the gym and eat healthy" incentive is meaningful. Basically, it should be enough to actually prompt healthy fitness and diet choices.
Maybe you're gunning towards looking fly in a bikini, or showing off your biceps at the beach. Maybe it's to make your ex jealous come summer, or simply to get healthy and active. Your source of motivation can be anything so long as it's effective, and just make sure to always have it in the back of your mind as you're going through all the hard work that comes with getting summer-body fit.