PT shares how to motivate yourself to work out even when it's freezing

It’s cold. Really cold.

It’s so chilly that it’s hard to take your pyjamas off in the morning, and no matter how high you crank the heating, you’re still not warming up.

The sudden cold snap that has hit the UK might mean that your fitness regime goes out the window. The thought of running around outside, or even leaving the house in the early hours to get to the gym, will probably send shivers down your spine.

But given that the next few months are likely to feature lots of super low temperatures, it’s important to find a way to stay active – particularly if you have specific fitness goals that you want to achieve.

Exercise is also known as one of the best ways to boost your mood, but with one in three people in the UK suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, it suggests that too many of us lack the motivation to work out on a cold, dark day. 

Believe it or not, it’s actually easier to run and exercise outside when it’s cold because there’s less heat stress on the body. However, getting yourself out for a run on cold mornings takes more mental strength than it does in summer. 

Luke Hughes, level 4 personal trainer and founder at, Origym, has shared his top tips for getting out to exercise, even during these miserable winter months:

Get your outfit ready

‘When exercising, you’re more likely to feel the chill if you’re not wearing the right fitness gear and when the temperature drops, it’s time to introduce more layers of clothing,’ says Luke.

‘Before leaving the house to work out, make sure you have the right fitness gear on, alongside a trusty, thermal jacket as muscles are more prone to tightening up when it’s cold out.’ 

If it’s raining, Luke suggests having a hat or beanie at hand, and wearing trainers with good grip in case paths are slippery.

‘Not only can a new outfit keep you warm, but it can also help motivate you to go out and see if the clothes help to improve your performance,’ he adds.

Stay fueled 

No one feels motivated to exercise with an empty stomach. That’s why Luke suggests you should prepare a pre-workout snack.

‘To ensure that you have the energy and motivation to work out, you should eat something substantial beforehand, preferably a good source of carbohydrates, as this can cause a rapid increase in blood glucose levels, making it the perfect fuel to increase motivation,’ he says.

‘Some ideas for a quick pre-exercise snack include a banana, cereal bar, or a bagel with peanut butter.’

When is it too cold to workout outside?

Luckily, in the UK, we rarely come across the kind of extreme cold weather that would risk your health or your life – but make sure you check the forecast and make a smart judgement, particularly if you are planning a long run or hike, or are somewhere remote.

According to the Mayo Clinic, If the temperature dips below -18 degrees, or if the wind chill is extreme, you should skip your outside workout.

They also reiterate how important it is to have the correct protective clothing in rain or snow, because getting wet makes you more vulnerable to the cold.

Extremely cold temperatures can also put strain on your lungs. You might notice coughing, wheezing, or tightness in the chest if you’re running in the freezing cold. Take regular breaks if this is the case, and wearing a scarf over your nose and mouth to warm up the air you’re breathing can also help.

Remind yourself of the benefits

Despite the obvious downfalls of exercising when it’s miserable out, Luke says it’s important to remember just how many benefits there are too.

‘Most areas are much quieter in the morning, meaning that you’re less likely to collide with pedestrians on the street or be interrupted by noisy cars,’ says Luke. ‘You can enjoy the sounds of nature and the world around you, rather than the sound of traffic and the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

‘Starting off your day with a workout means you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing you have done something productive early on, which sets you up to be productive for the rest of the day.’

Involve other people 

Accountability can be really helpful when you’re trying to stick to your fitness goals.

‘Having a solid support network around you is a key way of ensuring that you stay motivated to exercise on a regular basis,’ says Luke.

‘By checking in with someone, you can stay accountable, meaning you are less likely to stray off track and skip your workout sessions.

‘Sometimes, finding motivation for exercising can be difficult, so bringing a friend can help boost momentum. It’s also a good way to stay safe when it’s cold and dark out.’

Stay inside 

If exercising in the cold weather is too much to bear, Luke says it might be worth bringing your workout indoors. There’s no shame in changing your routine to suit your needs, and recognising when the cold is too much for you.

‘Home workout videos soared during the pandemic and showed us how to stay active while indoors with limited fitness equipment,’ says Luke.

‘So, if you want to stay in the comfort of your own home on a cold, dark day, you could watch workout videos online or invest in fitness equipment or some basic workout gear. That way, you’re less likely to make excuses.’

Remember why you started

‘When it’s cold and dark out, it can be easy to forget why exercising is worthwhile,’ says Luke. ‘If you’re trying to find out how to stay motivated to work out during a period of low motivation, then try taking it back to basics, and remember why you started your fitness journey in the first place.’

Luke’s suggestion is to remind yourself of your goals and why you’re on a fitness journey. He says it’s important to identify what really inspires you, and then create constant reminders of this. 

‘Keep a log or track your progress on a fitness app,’ he says. ‘You could even take weekly pictures as visual reminders can be a great way to maintain exercise motivation and ensure that you do not lose sight of your goals.’

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