10 ways to keep your healthy habits in the darker months
Keep your training, nutrition, and mindset habits on track throughout the dark and cold months.
Why do we struggle to maintain healthy habits in winter?
As someone who’s into fitness, you know that consistency is the most important factor in maintaining a routine. But this time of year can make consistency a challenge. Darker mornings and evenings, short daylight hours, and unreliable weather can all throw a spanner in the works.
In summer months, it feels pretty easy to get your daily steps in, to make healthy food choices, and to tick off those training sessions. During winter… not so much. The good news is, you don’t have to be perfect. You just need to find a simple routine that helps you stick to those foundational habits.
How to use winter months to your advantage
Let’s reframe these darker months – after all, it can’t be all bad. There are fewer weddings, BBQs, and picnics to throw your diet off track. Your routine is likely to be more settled, with less chance of spontaneous parties or afternoons in the pub. It’s a great time of year for fresh produce like root vegetables, and for healthy batch cooking (get that slow cooker out). Bad weather makes gym training appealing, and more gym training means more strength and muscle.
2 tools to keep mindset and motivation on track
Do you fall into a slump in the darker, colder months? It can be so tempting to hunker down on the sofa once it’s dark outside. But you already know how good it feels to stick to your healthy habits. And good decisions tend to stack up – make one healthy choice for yourself, and others will follow.
Quick wins – identify small moments in the week that are accessible, enjoyable, and pretty easy to do. Commit to doing them every week. That way, if nothing else goes to plan, you know you’ll have this keystone habit to boost your self-esteem and motivation. It might be a Saturday morning Parkrun followed by a trip to the fruit and veg market. Or a Sunday afternoon family walk and batch cooking session. Whatever works for you as a non-negotiable touchstone for your routine.
Do 5 minutes – if you’re struggling to get out for a walk or to go and train, promise yourself you’ll literally do 5 minutes. Put some music on if it helps. Do the 5 minutes – don’t over think it. Chances are you’ll carry on and do the full workout or a long walk. And if you don’t – hey, you tried. 5 minutes is better than nothing, and you kept that small promise to yourself.
3 ways to stay on track with training
Get it done early – get your daily movement in as early in the day as you can. It doesn’t have to be a workout, it could simply be a walk outside or a home stretch session. If you start your day with activity, you’ll feel energised, focused and more productive. And the rest of the day can get busy/tiring and it won’t matter – you’ve already ticked that box.
Plan your week – take 10 minutes on Sunday to look at the week ahead to identify gym sessions, workouts, classes, runs, or walks. Put them in your diary. Book sessions or classes if you’re a CrossFit/yoga/open gym person. Get into the mindset of treating training sessions as a non-negotiable part of your personal schedule.
Train with others – training with a friend makes it far more difficult to flake at the last minute. You don’t necessarily have to literally train with them. But simply making the plan and arranging to meet at a time and place will mean you turn up. This works for long walks, for gym sessions, for runs, and even for classes.
3 ways to stay on track with healthy nutrition
Enjoy seasonal produce – summer isn’t the only time for fresh healthy food. Enjoy exploring different root veg, squash and other seasonal produce to keep on track with healthy eating.
Keep an eye on emotional eating – short daylight hours, dark evenings, rubbish weather can all play havoc with your mood. If you’re prone to emotional eating, identify your triggers and take steps to deal with the a.
Batch cook healthy meals – meal prep can be a great way to have a steady supply of healthy balanced meals across the week. Set aside time once a week to prep lunches, snacks, or whatever will keep you on track.
2 ways to stay on track with sleep habits
Wind down for bed – we need more sleep at this time of year, so don’t worry if you feel like going to bed earlier. Start winding down 30 minutes before bedtime by turning lights low, switching off all screens, and getting cosy.
No phones in the bedroom – this one habit will transform your sleep quality. Leave your phone downstairs or at least outside the bedroom. Play the radio on a sleep timer, or read something light in bed. You’ll fall asleep quicker and get more restful sleep.