No, I’m not talking about extending your credit card for Christmas, I am referring to how incredibly hard it is in this part of the world to be healthy and fit this time of year.
Not just because of the constant barrage of holiday treats, parties and temptations everywhere, (that is important to consider) but for how hard it is to get anywhere and do anything in Canada, in winter.
I just returned from the Ultraman world championships in Kona, Hawaii today.
I am VERY lucky to have amazing staff at my business that are so capable, I was able to be in Hawaii for a month plus two days.
This allowed me the critical time to acclimate and get used to the temperature, the humidity and to learn the 515km course.
All of which became critical to my finishing the race as top Canadian, and 21st over all.
While I was there, I viewed facebook every night, and I saw the weather and the challenges that you were all going through back home here.
It made me grateful for my location at the time, but as I listened to my friends and clients discuss their challenges with the weather, it made me think that you could all give yourselves a little more credit!
In Hawaii, we got up every day to 21C weather in the morning (room temperature) if not warmer, even when it (rarely) rained.
It was so easy to grab my swim, bike or run gear and go train. It took so little effort, it was like pushing a ball down a hill. It was actually harder not to train, because there was so much to see and enjoy, and access was not impeded by anything at all.
That is not the case here!
To simply exercise at this time of year, during blizzard after blizzard takes a huge amount of willpower just to leave the house! It’s COLD outside, the car doesn’t want to start, or even run. There is no way you could go for a run outside on those roads, in that temperature, so you need to hit a treadmill, or find a pool, or a spin class, Zumba, hot yoga, a group fitness class or a gym with resistance training equipment. For most folks, that means leaving the warm, comfy, 184 channel TV, fridge full of goodies at the house.
You are now 100% at war with your basic survival system; the big part of your brain that keeps you safe.
It’s called the amygdala in scientific terms, but has also been referred to as the ‘Primitive Guidance System’ in one of my favourite motivation books called Following Through by S. Levinson and P. Greider.
This part of your brain is in charge of keeping you safe, instinct, mood and immediate gratification. (I call this part of your brain ‘Maxx’).
The other part of your brain, the ‘Intelligence Based Guidance System’ (the neocortex) is in charge of long-term planning, risk vs. reward, consequences long term etc.
I refer to this part of your brain as ‘Mini’ since it is smaller and less powerful than the big primitive system.
So when you are thinking about heading to the gym when it is -40C, and the house is comfortable and the car is a frozen lump, Maxx doesn’t want to go anywhere!
It is Mini who needs to try and negotiate with Maxx about why you should leave your comfort zone, and literally risk your life by going outside to go and work out, (which will likely be hard and involve effort too!)
The fact that we ever leave the house in winter is a testament to how strong and amazing Canadians are!
So give yourself some credit, and arm Mini with some tools to help you get out the door and off to do something healthy and good for you!
Arrange to meet a friend at the gym, a certain class, or buy a time limited block of structured classes that you don’t want to miss, etc. Have a ‘workout jar’ where every successful workout, you drop $2 in it and when it adds up, you have full, guilt free permission to buy yourself whatever you want!
Pick an activity that you love to do!
Group fitness classes, boot camps, whatever – keep trying until you find something that you love and it is so much easier to succeed!
Sign up for a huge goal – like a triathlon, or Spartan race or marathon, something that has a very real deadline, and will draw you in day after day.
Above all, give yourself some credit – it is HARD to live here in winter, and the fact that we choose to do that earns us a pat on the back!
Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.