Training in the Winter Months; how do you survive? (Part 1)



Winter Warmer!

But it’s cold outside!!

Lying cosy in bed it’s hard to imagine getting up and out into the fog that is sitting just outside my bedroom window.  Yesterday was bright and beautiful but travelling prevented me form getting out on a training ride and today I have a beautiful route planned but with this fog it’s tempting to sack it off and stay here in the warm.

I am disappointed, I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t but it won’t put me off either, not for long anyway.  I love getting on my bike and heading out for the open road. I can feel how desperate my body is for fresh air and exercise. Ride I will.

  • How do you survive exercising in the winter months? Do you take your activity in doors, head to the gym, get on the turbo trainer or do you simply wrap up warm and just go for it?


  • Or is this the time of year that you drop exercise altogether and allow it to fade into the background until the spring comes around again?


  • With just a few changes you can keep active right through winter – in this piece I discuss the changes we need to make to sustain our exercise through the colder months and feel better than ever moving into spring.


It wasn’t always like this

There was a time when a little rain or a slight chill would put me right off stepping outside my front door. Those days when I found getting out of bed hard and used any excuse under the sun, I honestly didn’t know what I was I missing. I had other ideas about exercise back then. It was a chore, something to be endured and as I sat making up excuses that I never truly believed, I felt safe at home in my cocoon. However during those times I was compounding an issue that I had suffered with for years – procrastination and inertia they set in and if you sack off one day ‘just because’ you give yourself permission to sack off a few more.  Well why not?

Days would pass in a rainy haze and then weeks would go by as the cold stepped up it’s warnings to me – go out at your peril. Pavements were dangerous as were the roads and I was not confident on anything other than those. ‘Why would you?’ was the affirmation I said to myself and anyone else in my group of friends at the time.

Why would you…. my monkey mind whispered, why….what possible benefit could you gain from going out today

There are so many perceived barriers to exercising through winter, Women in Sport research shows that there is a significant decline in women participating in physical activity and sport in the winter months*. There is a dropout rate of 27% across all outdoor sports and pursuits during autumn and winter and as I expected the older you get the higher the dropout rate. It is not clear from the study if there is a switch being made with women taking their sport indoors, but the report suggests there is still a decline here and the drop out rate, although lower than their outdoor counterparts is still greater compared to men’s participation.  It is anticipated that although there will be some movement from outdoor to indoor sport and exercise there is still a considerable drop in women exercising through the winter.

*Women in Sport – Keeping Women Warm To Sport in Winter

So what really stops us?

The research found that women would sight multiple reasons for not exercising which would cover a range of environmental factors, cultural issues, motivation and personal safety barriers.  We are after all complex beings so there was going to be a complex set of answers here.  You have used some of them yourself; I know you have as I have too in the past.

‘It’s too dark and I feel unsafe’ – understandable, logical and hard to argue against

‘I need to stay home and feed the kids and get everything ready for the morning’ – an instant reaction to the darker nights is to switch to the nurturing parent and tuck everyone up safe

‘It’s raining and a bit cold, it may brighten up tomorrow’ – although we live in a country where it rains more than it shines we are still surprised when winter gets here

‘What am I doing this for? It’s not like I am going to get into a bikini anytime soon’ – the summer motivation for feeling fit and healthy has gone so what else is left…..







What changed for me?

Let’s flip back a few years, in my 20’s I loved being outside and getting muddy and didn’t mind the cold and the wet. I played rugby for Cheltenham Ladies – back then we were positioned in the Premier Division 2 and traveled all over the country to play matches every Sunday, training took place on a Wednesday and a Friday come rain, shine or snow! Our coaches would give us no quarter – if we tried to avoid the puddles we would have rucking practice right on top of it, delay the start by 5 minutes by sitting in the changing rooms – 10 minutes would be added to the end of the session. They took hard lines but none of us minded, in-fact we all secretly loved it. I am sure it is not dissimilar to the ‘boot camp, military fitness’ style of training sessions you see in parks all over the country now.

I knew what it was like to train in the cold and I had loved it at one time, could I get that love back?

In training for my second marathon, my first was a bit of a game, it took place in the summer and was an off-road affair so I trained so very little for it that it was almost a joke.  The second time I lined up for a marathon event I wanted to be ready.  Fully prepared to do my absolute best rather than simply take part.

With a spring marathon beckoning winter training was inevitable and so during the winter of 2012 I began to embrace the weather. I had little choice as the first training session began on boxing day. Having a goal was a great motivator and I also found a group that I loved running with, in-deed I had even started training as a run leader so this was a turning point for me.

Over time I embraced the cold and the damp days and actually loved it again.


Read Part 2 HERE


_dsc9089_1600x1064Bio: Nicky is a professional life coach and Level 2 British Cycling Coach and MTB Leader. Her passion for sport and feeling fit has lead her to support and empower women to take control of their fitness and to fully experience the freedom and enjoyment of being physically fit and feel good about themselves. Nicky’s programmes offer 1:1 performance coaching to live a fitter life as well as courses for women to gain confidence on the bike to either pedal for fun and recreation or step up into sportives and longer bike adventures.  You can follow @nickyharverson on twitter as she takes on her own challenges and lives the life that she dreams of.