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 6 Tips for Boosting Exercise Motivation in the Cold, Dark Winter Months

Black woman in orange coat runs in winter with a man

Even if you exercise indoors at a gym, when it’s dark and cold outside, it’s hard to find the motivation to get out of your warm bed or off the couch and move your body. You’re not alone. It’s hard enough sticking to exercise when the weather is pleasant. When it’s freezing and the streetlights are still on, you really need inspiration to stick with your plan, whether you’re exercising outside or just heading to the gym in the early morning hours of winter. With these tips, you’ll thank yourself in the spring when the weather breaks and you’re well on your way to meeting your fitness goals.

Get the Right Winter Gear

If you exercise outside, having the proper gear is critical. It’s easier to get yourself moving if you know you’ll be comfortable and safe. Taking the time to make sure you have thermal layers and accessories like hats, gloves, and wool socks will help you focus on your workout and not the cold.

Clothing with reflective stripes or a headlamp will help you feel safe in the dark. And let’s face it, having new gear to break in can be all the exercise motivation you need.

Try a Winter Weather Activity

If you’re more of a warm weather fitness type, this is the perfect time to try something new. Trying a winter activity like ice skating, snowboarding, or cross country skiing for the first time can give you a new challenge and the exercise motivation to keep at it through the winter months. Sign up for lessons or find a friend that can show you the ropes.

Ice skating outside with figure skates

Find a Workout Buddy for Motivation

Recruiting someone to work out with you and having someone to be accountable to can help you stay the course. Whether it’s an instructor helping you learn a new skill (see above!) or a friend who shares your struggle, if you know someone is counting on you, it can keep you motivated to get off the couch and get to it.

If you’re thinking that shelling out money for a new gym membership will be motivation enough, there’s evidence to suggest that the guilt of a monthly recurring payment isn’t the motivating factor you think it is. So find that partner that will keep you going instead.

Get Motivated with an Event

Having an event a few months out that you’re working towards can help you stay on track with your exercise plan. It might be a spring 10k, a powerlifting competition, or a century cycling race. Whatever gets you excited and moving. The excitement of competition and having an organized training plan designed to get you to a finish line can help you stay motivated to stick to the program even when it’s cold. 

Do Your Workouts At Home

Working out in your living room or garage means you don’t need to leave the house when it’s cold and dark. Adjust your fitness plan so you can do bodyweight workouts or stream live or on-demand classes. If you plan to run or cycle outside, you can do your warmup indoors and a proper warmup will help you feel better prepared to handle the winter cold. So don’t skip it. And an added bonus, if you don’t have to commute to the gym, you can spend more time sleeping in!

Young woman doing yoga at home

Work in Some Recovery

This might seem less obvious than other tips on this list, but proper recovery can help you feel refreshed and restored for the next workout which makes it easier to stick with the plan. Schedule enough time between workouts for adequate recovery and after each exercise session, especially ones outside, take a warm shower and refuel with good nutrition. Stretching, massage, and foam rolling are important recovery components to include as well.

Avoiding feeling rundown and burned out may help you avoid getting sick and make you more likely to stay motivated to exercise through the winter months. 

Moving your body, even when it’s cold, can help beat the winter blues. Exercising outside during the day can boost vitamin D levels which helps improve mood and combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. So even though it can be tough to get going, remember why you’re exercising in the first place. Keep your goals in mind, and in the spring, you’ll be that much further along because you stuck with it in the dark days of winter.


This article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended for use as medical or health advice. For any and all health concerns or conditions, please talk to your doctor.

Written by Jennifer Zeltwanger exclusive for


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