January 1st is a terrible day to start a new fitness regimen, as many a hungover post-New Year’s Eve partier knows. There’s nothing like a queasy belly, splitting headache, and the hope that bacon, eggs, and a bloody mary will save you to make you decide to skip that run you’ve been planning on, especially if you know it will hurt since you haven’t had time for physical activity the past few weeks.
No, the best day to start that new workout routine — you know, the one that you’re finally going to stick with — is today.
“Woah,” you might say. “Take it easy.”
But hear me out.
If you start working out now, you have a much better shot of actually keeping it through the rest of the winter and into spring and next summer. That’s for three major reasons: It will be easier to deal with the cold if you start working out now, it will make it easier to develop the habits that you need if you don’t wait until after the holidays, and you’ll feel better going into 2017 having already begun your new routine.
1. It will be easier to deal with the cold if you start working out now.
“It’s important [to get used to winter weather] now, because the bad months are January and February,” says John Honerkamp, a coach with the New York Road Runners. This advice is most important if you’re planning on trying to keep up an outdoor biking or running routine, but it also does apply to anyone who finds the cold a deterrent from even making it out to the gym.
Now is when you can start figuring the gear and the layers that work best for you. That way there’s no sudden shock by the cold, as there would be if you stayed cosy and warm indoors for December and then decided to try getting outside to run beginning in January. If you try a few outdoor runs now, you’ll find that once you get moving, the cold air isn’t actually that bad.
2. It will make it easier to develop the habits that you need if you don’t wait until after the holidays.
December is full of occasions for indulgence. Your co-workers and friends might bake cookies to share, your office might throw a holiday party full of boozy cocktails, plus there’s probably a big family meal or two in your near future. If you pack on a few extra pounds during this time period and don’t keep up with your health, it’s going to be even harder to start in January. If you’ve let the busy fall season get in the way of your running or gym routine up til this point, get back into it as soon as you can.
“You’re not going to lose a ton of fitness in a week or two, but three or four weeks, it gets bad,” says Honerkamp (referring to the average person, even a week or two can be enough for a competitive athlete to lose their edge).
3. You’ll feel better going into the new year having already begun your new routine.
Just like you’ll feel physically better if you don’t let your fitness plans fall apart under the weight of egg nog and candy canes, you’ll feel mentally better if you make sure you get regular exercise before and during any sort of winter break that you might have. Holidays can be stressful, after all, and there’s little that we know that provides as much of a mental health boost as exercise. Plus, getting out there in the winter can be a great way to win a victory against the thing that makes us opt for the lazy option — ourselves. If you do venture out into the cold, you’ll feel good about it.
“There is that badge of honour or courage of braving the elements (with proper gear),” says Honerkamp.
So get out there.
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