The clocks have been turned back, and sweaters are now a wardrobe staple. Besides having to adjust your morning wake-up routine and the thermostat, some changes to your workout also may be in order. Along with fewer daylight hours and chillier weather comes a strong desire to ditch exercise and snuggle up on the couch rather than sweat it out on the treadmill. Here are some ways to get back the motivation you need to stay fit through fall and these drearier months of the year.
Just breathing in fresh air can make you feel energized. Taking your workout outdoors can be stimulating and invigorating, especially in cooler weather. Since darkness sets in earlier, be sure to map out a safe route for your run or walk, and keep it a little shorter than usual if it’s colder outside than you're used to. Dress in layers, warm up and stay hydrated (you still sweat when it's cold). Keep outdoor workouts flexible—sometimes morning weather is just too chilly, so you may need to switch to an afternoon routine.
Support your body’s clock
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the body’s clock. It does its work at night, repairing and preparing the body for the following day. During the winter months, melatonin levels may dip, causing you to feel sluggish and tired. This may cause you to reach for sweets to spike your energy and provide short term relief (along with added weight gain!). To support your body’s natural production of melatonin, try taking a supplement at bedtime. Start with a low dose and increase until you find the correct amount for you.
Shorter daylight hours means less sunlight, and less sunlight may mean you’re not getting enough vitamin D. Found naturally in very few foods (egg yolks, tuna and fortified dairy products or cereal are some of your best bets), vitamin D can be taken in supplement form to help maintain healthy levels. Besides contributing to bone health, vitamin D also is important for proper function of the immune and nervous systems.*
Go nuts for walnuts
Most of us think of eating walnuts for their heart-healthy fats (omega -3 fatty acids). However, walnuts also contain B vitamins that can help metabolize energy from the foods we eat. Add a sprinkling to your morning oatmeal or try a handful tossed in a salad for an instant energy boost during the day. One ounce of walnuts (about 14 pieces) amounts to 185 calories, so stick to the correct portions and don’t go overboard.
Cozy up to carbs
Carbohydrates get a bad rap, but they are not the enemy when eaten correctly. Increasing your carbohydrate intake this time of year can be a good thing. Our bodies need carbs to fuel the brain. Have you ever noticed that when you haven't eaten, you get tired, cranky and can't think straight? That's because your body has used up all the stored glycogen (from carbs) for energy. Fuel up during the day with complex carbs, including whole grains such as barley and quinoa or products made with whole grains, such as breads and cereal, along with potatoes and beans.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.