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Tips to Stay on Track with Fitness this Winter

How to Use Winter Exercise to Your Advantage

St. Louis winters can be unpredictable, but your training regimen doesn’t have to be, says Move by BJC manager and exercise physiologist Aaron Gutjahr.

“Although you won’t become a better runner without running, a better cyclist without cycling, or a low-handicap golfer without golfing, there are a multitude of ways that you can spend your off-season becoming a better, healthier athlete,” Gutjahr says.

For runners and cyclists, he says, the winter months are a great time to spend working on mobility and power production. “As a runner or cyclist, you spend most of your time exercising in a limited range of motion on a single plane of movement — forward and backward, not much side to side or diagonal. This is not making you a well-rounded athlete and ultimately can lead to injury when you try a movement that isn’t running and cycling,” Gutjahr says. “Moreover, gaining some mobility will likely improve your performance in your primary sport as well.”

If you love to run or cycle outside in the warmer months but loathe it in the winter, it’s the perfect time to try some alternative exercises that will still benefit you when the summer rolls around. Here’s where you can start:

  • Hip and ankle mobility exercises can help increase the range of motion of your hips and ankles — two joints that have very large ranges of motion but that can become extremely limited when you choose to primarily run or cycle. Lunges with elbow to instep is a great exercise to get started in hip mobility, and you can add in rotation to make this an all-in-one mobility fixer. The next time you’re at the gym, ask a qualified exercise specialist how to perform this exercise.

  • When cycling, your range of motion is limited to the pedal stroke, with little movement in your upper body. Some off-the-bike exercises can re-introduce full range of motion for the hips, knees and ankles. Ask your local exercise specialist how you can use a toe-touch progression to lengthen your hamstrings and relax your calf muscles.

  • Working on lateral and diagonal movements, rotational movements, and proper hip-hinge movement patterns all create a better athlete and ward off repetitive motion injury. A quick 5-minute lesson on an agility ladder can really add to your library of effective exercises that move you in all directions.

For those of you who can’t wait to hit the golf course again, Gutjahr says there’s no better time to work on your golf body than in the winter.

“Wouldn’t you love your first drive of the season in April to go an extra 20 yards? It’s possible,” he says. “Your body is a series of alternating stability and mobility joints. If you spend your off-season making your stability joints — your knees, lumbar spine and cervical spine — more stable, while making your mobility joints — your ankles, hips, thoracic spine, shoulders and wrists — more mobile, you’re bound to create more swing speed.

“Of course, strengthening the muscles will help too, and club head speed is built from the ground up,” Gutjahr says. “Ask your local exercise specialist how you can build power with your legs while mobilizing your hips, and you’ll be headed toward longer drives.”

Staying on Track with Fitness Goals — Winter Edition

Feeling motivated to exercise but having trouble sticking to a schedule?

Move by BJC exercise physiologist Sarah Dalton says meeting your fitness and health goals can be difficult in the best weather, and winters in St. Louis can add to that challenge. But don’t let that discourage you. Dalton says there are many methods you can use to keep with your program:

Write it down — and be sure to include:
  • Your detailed long-term goal, ideally with a timeline and measurable attributes

  • Who will be a support system while you work toward this long-term goal

  • Why you chose this goal in the first place and what it will help you to accomplish

  • What steps you’re going to take to reach your goals

  • How you plan to adjust when you run into a roadblock or obstacle

Create short-term goals:

Once you’ve finished the first step of writing out your plan, come up with some short-term goals that support your long-term goal and can help keep you motivated and on track. These smaller goals will ultimately help you reach your long-term goal.

For example, if your goal is to gain 4 pounds of muscle in six months, a short-term goal could be to increase your strength training workouts to three times per week by the fourth week. If your goal is to run a marathon in eight months, your short-term goal could be to run 10 miles by the four-month mark, or you could choose a smaller goal to increase your practice runs by 1 mile each week.

If your goals are nutrition related, make the healthy choice the easy choice:
  • Stick to the outer aisles in the grocery store.

  • Try not to be too restrictive with your food choices.

  • Organize your fridge, freezer and pantry so the healthy choices are at the front and easily accessible.

  • If you have a busy schedule, find one or two days to prep your food for the week.

  • If you get off track one day, don’t let it derail you. Allow yourself some grace and just get back on track the next day.

If your goals are fitness related:
  • Find a workout partner or build relationships with other people at the gym. Working out can be more fun and less intimidating when you have connections with others.

  • Create a back-up workout plan in case of inclement weather. You can find virtual workouts for any goal, experience level, space and equipment you may have.

  • If you get off track one day, don’t let it derail you. Just like with nutrition, allow yourself some grace and just get back on track the next day.

  • Take rest and recovery days seriously. They allow your body to repair and recover.

  • Slowly progress in your exercise routine. If you push your body harder than it can recover from, you may set yourself back.

Find an accountability partner:

Whether it’s a friend, family member, co-worker or fitness professional, find someone who supports you in your efforts and can work with you to keep you on track. It also helps us to be more accountable for our goals if someone else knows about them.

One of the best ways to stay accountable is to work out with a friend. When one of you lacks the energy to work out, the other is there to motivate and get you both to — and through — the workout.

Find ways to stay motivated:

Motivation can be difficult. Whether you haven’t been sleeping well, work has gotten busy or stressful, or life doesn’t go according to plan, fitness goals can easily get pushed to the back burner.

Take steps to motivate yourself by being aware of your progress and taking note of the accomplishments that will lead you to your goals:

  • Track and check off all progress.

  • Celebrate the small accomplishments.

  • When you meet one of your short-term goals, be sure to acknowledge it and be proud.

In short, you don’t have to be an elite athlete, like those competing in Beijing, to have an active and healthy winter. The experts at Move by BJC can tailor workouts to your needs to help you meet your health and fitness goals.

Move by BJC is a full-service fitness center located in the Cortex area of mid-town St. Louis providing personal training, massage therapy, group/virtual classes, and more. For more information, visit MovebyBJC.org.

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