40 Ways to Stay Motivated This Winter

Sure it’s freezing outside, but that’s no reason to give exercise the cold shoulder. Find out how these readers keep working out all year long

January 16, 2012
woman running in the cold

We’ve long suspected that winter was designed to derail all of our well intentioned fitness New Year’s resolutions. The days are shorter. The temperatures are colder. And your motivation, like the groundhog’s shadow, is hard to find.

To help kick back the winter slump, we asked readers like you to tell us what strategies keep them committed to the gym. Get some inspiration from these 40 cold-weather tips for staying fit and healthy all season long. (Plus: Update your fitness wardrobe for some inspiration! Try some of our Best Winter Workout Gear.)


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1. “I check into the gym on Foursquare on my way home from work. Once I do that, there's no getting out of it because I feel like I'd be lying to all my friends who saw my post on their Facebook newsfeed if I didn't follow through and actually go!” –Nicole J., Bedford, IN

2. “I use a routine that's simple and easy to start—either jogging from right outside my apartment or doing a straightforward routine at a gym that's very close by. That way, I have way fewer excuses for not getting started on a given day. I can't say ‘I have to take the subway to my gym and it’s so cold outside’ or ‘I’m here at the gym but the specific machine I always use is occupied.’”  –Abe R., Oak Park, IL

3. “I like to use an online program to help chart my fitness, such as nikerunning.com or fitocracy.com.” –Adelyn Z., San Diego, CA

4. “Create a challenge. Make sure your goal is attainable, but more difficult than you think you will be able to accomplish. I wanted to run at least a mile a day for 40 days straight. As you’re going through your challenge, treat yourself to both mini-goals and mega rewards. After a long run, I would treat myself to a Jamba Juice smoothie and oatmeal. After the 40 days were done, I treated myself to a new running jacket and a tri-club membership.” – Sean K., Atlanta, GA


5. “Make your gym time correspond to the schedules of your gym “cuties.” Nothing like a hot boy to add a wee bit of motivation.” –Lucy C., Denver, CO

6. “Dress the part. Get cute workout clothes and be proud to wear them. They’ll also prevent injury in the case of good running shoes.” –Marina B., Schaumburg, IL

7. “I used to be an athlete and now work for a sports team, so it’s kind of a pride thing. I want to at least be as fit as some of the players.” –Haibo L., Lansdale, PA

8. “Try new workout classes at the gym. They usually have tons of new classes in January to bring in new members, so it’s a good opportunity to try something new and mix it up.” –Alice V., Wilmington, DE

9. “I mark my daily Outlook calendar with my workouts as if they were actual appointments. It helps me make sure I plan around them and don’t bail at the last minute.” –Jesse Y., Phoenix, AZ

10. “Invest in good wool socks.” – Benny C. Claremont, CA

11. “Fast tempo tunes! When Outkast’s “Bombs Over Baghdad” comes up on my iPod, I know it’s time for business.” –Michelle C., Revere, MA

Find out the best songs to fire up your workout!

12. “Skinny jeans are unforgiving, even in the winter months.” – Jennifer A., Bremerton, WA (via Facebook)

13. “Plan a vacation at a beach or book an appointment at a spa so that you have the motivation to look good in your bikini.” –Seong Min L., Seoul, Korea


14. “I exercise so I can eat whatever I want. But really, when you exercise you move your body, sweat, and release feel-good endorphins. What more motivation do you need?” – Dave J., Emmaus, PA

15. “This may sound silly, but I keep a dress in my closet that is my ‘ideal’ size (not too small and not too big). I check it with it a couple of times and then I can see what I need to work on.” –Tiana M., Poughkeepsie, NY

16. “Results are always the motivator, regardless of the weather!” –Amy C., Greensboro, NC (via Facebook)

17. “I find having my iPod set off as an alarm being key to waking up for the gym. Also I have an automatic coffee maker and a tiny apartment which helps because the aroma is so nice!” –Hannah A., Coto de Caza, CA

18. “What keeps me motivated is signing up for a race, like a half-marathon with my mom! The countdown to race day and imagining the cheering crowd as I cross the finish line gets me going.” –Caro R., Miami, FL

19. “My biggest motivator is to try to fight the aging process. I loved to dance in the 70s and 80s, so now it’s about cranking up the music and shaking it like I used to. My ultimate motivation is to keep limber and toned, all the while reminding myself that I must ‘use it or lose it.’ Muscle tone and flexibility disappear rapidly as one gets older, so there’s no better motivator than making the effort on a daily basis to keep fit and healthy.” –Wendy J., Phoenix, AZ

20. “After my morning run in the bitter cold, I look forward to a warm cup of coffee with sprinkles of cinnamon. I start the coffee before I run so that it's waiting for me when I return. If I'm feeling tired on my run, I think of that coffee, and I swear it makes me move faster knowing a warm cup is waiting for me!” –Sammy D., Lancaster, PA

21. “I try to do fitness activities that are fun (i.e. martial arts) and I have such a strong predilection for sweets that guilt is like 99.99999% of the driving force.” –Terry Y., Washington, DC

22. “I stay motivated by meditating for 10 minutes first thing every morning. I set my daily intention, such as ‘passion’ or ‘focus’ or ‘exercise,’ and come back to that word several times throughout the day. When I’m not feeling motivated, I check back in for a few minutes and recall the day’s intention. That helps me get back on track.” –Mona H., North Brunswick, NJ

23. “I love to combine my love of travel and exercise, so I choose to train for marathons in different cities.  I love the idea of running as a way to explore new places and also set workout goals.” – Katie D., Philadelphia, PA

24. “What keeps me going for my exercise especially during the winter?  It is my four-legged friends! Unlike an exercise companion who can call you with an excuse to cancel, my dogs, Manchu, Belle and Pabu, never give me an excuse to miss their daily routine walks of 30 minutes each morning and 30 to 45 minutes every evening. Rain, frost, sun, heat, every day is exercise day when you own 3 Shih-Tzu’s!” –Yvonne C., Scottsdale, Arizona

25. “[Exercise] helps me to cope with the winter blues, and the added plus is that I feel better and have more energy when I exercise.” –Lori W., Williamsville, NY (via Facebook)

Check out these 17 other ways exercise sends your health soaring.

26. “Rocky movie marathon! Or for those who can’t commit to a six film-a-day routine, watch an abbreviated Rocky workout montage (my strategy during winter finals). His epic run up the Philly museum stairs is in the cold and the 64-year-old Sly is still kicking it in the last film, Rocky Balboa.” –Shelley R., Pittsburgh, PA

27. “If I am cold, a nice cardio will warm me up and the cold is gone.” – Anna A., Los Angeles, CA via Facebook

28. “I've come too far in my journey to getting healthy and fit to get off track. I've put my body through hell to not keep going!” – Amber R., Wallingford, PA (via Facebook)

29. “Join the P90X craze. All you need is a pull up bar and a couple of free weights—and you don't have to leave your apartment. Don't forget to take before and after pictures.” –Eli L., Eugene, OR

30. “A break from reality with trashy magazines and the opportunity to be entertained/"informed" by the Today show stories keeps me motivated for my morning jaunt on the treadmill. –Sarah S., Chicago, IL

31. “Running with a group through the cold months holds me to my workouts. Buying new workout gear intermittently through the training weeks keeps me excited to get out there and sweat.”  Maureen Y., Phoenix, AZ

32. “I take advantage of warm-weather days in the winter. When it's 40 degrees you can pretend it's almost spring!” – Alexandria C., Memphis, TN

33. “Try some activities where other people are involved doing stuff you enjoy, such as martial arts, dance, or rock climbing. For me looking forward to seeing friends at jiu-jitsu makes me want to exercise.” –Allen T., Nashville, TN

34. “Sometimes I can sucker myself into running by promising I'll go slow or just run one mile, but end up naturally picking up the pace by the end.” –Sara C., Winston-Salem, NC

35. “I set specific goals or set up friendly competitions/bets with friends. I am super competitive.” –Debbie P., New York, NY

36. “I enjoy a new workout routine when it gets cold.....like a new video. Helps break up the monotony.” –Dolly T., Canyon City, CO (via Facebook)

37. “I think the biggest motivation is having someone else to work out with and keep you accountable. I was most successful at running in the mornings when we had running club. In fact, I never snoozed or overslept on a morning run when I knew there was someone waiting for me. And the motivation carried over to the days we didn't have club. Once you get into the routine of getting up in the morning, it's much easier to get up, even on the days when no one is waiting for you to work out.” –Pamela C., Asheville, NC
38. “I stay motivated just thinking of the remainder of my day sitting in front of a screen.” –Jon M., New York, NY

39. “I always say YES to Pilates class, and I wear my Skineez Skincarewear garments everywhere ... it’s a real motivator when I know that I'm doing good for my body and my skin! I want to keep seeing great results by staying active and eating right!” –Taylor B., Locus Valley, NY (via Facebook)

40. “Find a friend (or significant other) to compliment the heck out of you.  We always hear that working out with a friend motivates you to get to the gym. But nothing makes me want to work out hard than hearing, ‘Wow, you look great!  What are you doing for your arms?  They look so toned!’  When my mom was trying to lose weight last year, we showered her with compliments every time we recognized any change in her body.  She ultimately lost 50 pounds and frequently says our enthusiastic appreciation efforts really helped keep her going back to the gym.” –Sarah B., Alexandria VA

TELL US! Lest you forget, spring is just around the corner. What’s your favorite part about working out once the weather starts to warm? Email us or post your reply on Facebook.