"Winter is coming"
– House Stark.
Like the White Walkers of the old stories our grandmother told us, winter comes down on us mortals and we must prepare! This endless onslaught of malicious attacks on our brain and stomach will make us ready for battle if we're not careful:
Cold weather that encourages us to sleep in it, avoid the elements and say “maybe tomorrow”.
A sun that rises too late and sets too early means we often go days without seeing the damn thing!
Cookies and candy bombarded us from everywhere we look.
Oh, and a global pandemic that has left us isolated and alone.
These and other challenges are fair beg to get us off the rails. And a built-in excuse called January 1st, where we promise to start over, helps us rationalize that we are "pausing" until then. Black Friday has come and gone. Cyber Monday is now in the rear view. Thanksgiving is a distant memory now.
And yet … the challenges are just beginning.
Fortunately, we have 7 "hacks" to help you get through these tough times. You can also try them out if you want!
Here's what we're going to cover with our guide to surviving winter:
Okay let's do this.
Winter Hack # 1: Don't run in the wrong direction
We need you back in battle now.
We all see January 1st as a "reset," and there's nothing wrong with a reset at the beginning of the year. The problem is when you compound your problems by digging deeper into a hole that you will eventually have to climb out of!
Eat very badly long enough and the hole will start to resemble Bruce Wayne's prison in The dark knight rises::
Imagine yourself at the start of a race for a healthy life that begins on January 1st. You have two options:
- A) Stay at the starting line: Wait a moment and wait for the gun to fire. Then start running.
- B) Walk in the opposite direction. Keep walking away from the starting line. If the gun goes off, you will have to keep running in the race.
So step 1 doesn't go in the opposite direction. This means you can't skip all of your workouts and eat like crap and give up by January. This is the wrong way to go, and the task of starting over on January 1st becomes all the more brutal.
Instead, do what you can to "kick the water" and hang around the starting line. If you can, stick to your goal. A bad meal doesn't ruin anything. Missed training isn't the end of the world. If you're having a terrible day, respawn and get back into battle. Right away.
A four week free fall is a hole you'd rather not be in. You don't want to be either THIS hole:
But that is irrelevant …
So forget B. Let's aim at A.
Winter Hack # 1: Never two in a row
I spoke about "Never Two in a Row" for the first time back in 2012 and it's a mantra I've lived by since then.
You are a human being. And life happens.
What SHOULD NOT HAPPEN is missing two days in a row. Or eat TWO bad meals in a row. Or TWO bad days in a row.
Why? A bad day can feel like a speed bump while trying to get well. Get back on the road right away and there is no problem.
Missing two days in a row, however, is like turning that tiny speedbump into the Misty Mountains. If you miss a day in a row, no problem! Just act like it didn't happen and get on your way again.
However, if you miss two days in a row, the odds of falling into a multi-week hole are 67.42% higher. Okay, so I made this statistic, but two days very easily becomes three, which very easily becomes a week, which easily becomes "I'll wait until January".
This is going in the wrong direction.
NEVER AIM two workouts in a row. If you miss a workout on Monday, go on Tuesday and hit the road again. If you eat cake for lunch because it won't eat itself, you're making your dinner a healthy AF. If you do, you'll be fine.
So if you have a bad day or do something against your plan, you need to come back right away (in video game jargon, start over) and make the next day the best day possible.
Winter Hack # 3: Consider skipping a meal
Spoiler alert: you're going to be eating lots of decadent food this month. (As opposed to Noel's delicious Thai Zoodle recipe above)
I know it. You know it. So we can do one of two things.
- We can pretend it isn't happening and then be surprised and beat ourselves up when we get into a carbohydrate coma and go on a calorie bend.
- Or we can be smart and negate the impact these days are having on our waistlines. Better still, we can make those extra calories work for us.
For starters, our metabolism isn't that intelligent. Your weight will fluctuate based on total calories burned over many, many days, not after ONE power bomb in a meal.
So if you know you're going to have a monster for lunch and dinner (see you Christmas), a silly light breakfast tomorrow, and a light breakfast tomorrow – the calories will be average in the long run.
Or, when you're ready to dig in and do the research, skip breakfast (and possibly lunch) before your monster meal. It's called "intermittent fasting" and it's what I do to stay on track during weeks when I know I'll be eating badly.
FirstI skip breakfast every day (I haven't had breakfast in years).
SecondMaybe I'll skip lunch the day after a monster meal. Dive in again and research (or just read this), and you'll find that missing a meal doesn't mean the end of the world. In fact, it can lead to a healthier lifestyle for the right person.
If you want to skip a meal here or there, our chic new app has an intermittent fasting adventure that you can try NOW.
Sign up for a free trial here:
Winter Hack # 4: Weight Training Before Large Meals
Whether or not you use intermittent fasting, you can schedule your exercise to coincide with your unhealthy meals.
As I mentioned in our article on The 5 Rules Of Weight Loss, imagine all the calories you eat as a first year wizard at Hogwarts.
They have to be sorted into one of three houses ("Burn as Energy", "Store as Fat" or "Rebuild Muscle").
The extra calories you eat over the holidays always go towards "storing fat" unless you give them a really good reason to go to the "build muscle" common room. Asking them politely doesn't help.
You have to give them a reason. And that wonderful reason is STRENGTH TRAINING.
When you do strength training before a big meal, the muscles that you have been exercising will break down and need to be rebuilt. For the next more than 48 hours, many of those extra calories will be redirected into rebuilding (stronger) muscles instead of getting fat.
Yes, our gyms are likely closed because of the pandemic. But that doesn't mean that we can't do bodyweight training from our living room.
Try some heavy weight training just hours before your vacation and then eat with everyone else. While they all complain, "I'm so full, I ate too much, wahhhh," you will know that your calories are used to help rebuild muscle. So inside you can start making an evil villain laugh … Muahahahah, you know the one.
Work smarter (like a nerd).
Winter Hack # 5: Don't Rely on Motivation
Here's another spoiler for you: You will NOT want to exercise this month. It will be dark and cold and your nose will run (better catch!), Work will suck, you will be hungover and so on.
The motivation you need to overcome these obstacles is gigantic. So don't force yourself to try to "dig deep" and just "work harder" and feel guilty when you are "not motivated".
Instead, do all you can to never depend on motivation. Your body won't say, "Oh, that's okay, I'll stay in shape because I feel bad for you." There are 31 days in December just as there are 31 days in August.
That said, you have to stay on track, even if it's much easier to do in the summer. So instead of motivation, build failovers to make sure you stay healthy. Schedule your training sessions in your calendar and set up notifications so that you are reminded of them. Recruit a buddy so you can check in each other.
Or go with one of these more diabolical examples:
Take a really, very embarrassing picture of yourself or write a tweet with an embarrassing secret. Schedule it every morning before bed at 6:15 a.m. (or an early time for you). Put your phone in the other room. If you don't wake up in time and run to the other room and cancel this tweet, it'll go out! Better to just get up and train before work.
Give your coworker $ 250. Tell him you will be exercising 3 days a week and send him a photo of your exercise. If he / she doesn't receive this photo, donate $ 50 of your money to a political cause you can't stand.
Set up your credit card notifications so that you and your wife / husband receive an email every time you use it. Agree that you will never use this card to buy fast food, or that you will have to do diaper service (or something that suits your situation) for the next 3 consecutive months.
In each of the above cases, you will be doing exactly two things:
- Be really mad at yourself. Probably swearing a lot. Swear vengeance on your past self.
- Do the damn thing that you know you have to while being mad at yourself at the same time.
Never rely on motivation. Now motivation doesn't hurt. It's just not reliable. So if you need some motivation to get started, check out this video to remind you that exercising in the winter makes you a badass:
Just don't rely on it or feel guilty if you don't have it! Use that extra energy to build systems when you feel a motivational boost. Here's how to use motivation properly.
Winter Hack # 6: Have a Plan B.
“Too cold today! I can't go to the gym and do my workout, DAMN! Looks like all I have to do is sit here and eat ice cream. "
"The groceries have run out and it's snowing. I just have to order pizza."
The problem with winter is that it always makes the unhealthy option the easiest. We are lazy and I have to imagine that we are a bit like bears because we want to hibernate and store fat when it gets cold.
We have this tiny voice in our head that subtly nudges us to choose the path of least resistance: also known as pizza and skipped workout.
And we can't let that vote win. Then the White Walkers win. And we're all fucked up. Instead, we're going to MacGuyver to end our winter by having a plan B prepared.
A training plan B: Have a spot in your house or apartment where you can do the beginner bodyweight workout, a Nerd Fitness Prime workout, or yoga. It might not be as good as the gym (which may or may not be open), but it's still a workout. It could mean investing in a pull-up bar or yoga mat, but a small investment to keep the momentum going over the winter is worth any amount of money. Here's how to build a home gym if you're interested.
A nutrition plan B: Have a healthy meal in your freezer that is already cooked and ready to heat up. We make terrible decisions when the refrigerator is empty and we are hungry. The Dominos and Pizza Hut sirens ask us to call them for a 30 minute delivery.
So use your own laziness to help!
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Have a meal in your freezer that is ready.
- Save SteamFresh vegetables for emergencies.
- If you use crap delivery apps, delete them from your phone.
Do what you have to do to make it harder to make the wrong choices.
Winter Hack # 7: Everything Counts
So today you can only train for 15 minutes instead of 20 minutes.
So you have time to do a few yoga poses instead of exercising for an hour.
Your only option at the Christmas party (if it starts at all) is pizza, and you haven't had a great breakfast.
This doesn't mean your winter is ruined. 80% is still 80% better than zero percent.
Every little bit counts. It REALLY, REALLY does. Any small change or even living on cake HALF the time is far better than living on cake all of the time. Swap ONE beer for ONE glass of water and it's a victory that is reflected in your waistline. Do 5 pushups as soon as you get out of bed and it's a win.
Winter is a problem, not because people make a bad mistake, but because a bad mistake can quickly set off a chain reaction of disaster, justified by the fact that people cannot do anything 100%. So you choose 0%.
If you don't have time for a full workout, do a half workout! If you have to eat from a drive-through, no problem. Drink water or a diet cola and take some fruit for your side.
Here is something else to try:
Every morning when you wake up, do 20 bodyweight squats and 10 pushups. If you have access to a pull-up bar (or gymnastics rings), hang it on for 30 seconds. No bar? No problem, here are 5 pull-up alternatives.
Make this the FIRST thing you do every day (with systems built in in point 6). That way, you've done something at least every day during winter.
Together we can defy winter
There you have it.
While you won't have to chase all 7 hacks this winter, adopting a hack or two can help you build some momentum between now and the New Year.
And as always, if you need additional help, we're here to help.
What kind of help?
Well you might consider:
# 1) Our Online Coaching Program: A coaching program for busy people that will help them make better decisions, stay accountable, and become healthier over the long term.
You can schedule a free call with our team so we can get to know you and see if our coaching program is right for you. Just click the button below for more information:
Our coaching program changes your life. Learn how!
# 2) Do you work out at home and need a plan to follow? Check out Nerd Fitness Journey!
Our fun habit-building app will help you exercise more, eat healthier, and (literally) improve your life.
Try your free trial here:
# 3) Join the rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.
Sign up in the box below to sign up and receive ours Rebel starter kitThis includes all of our home training guides, the Nerd Fitness Diet Cheat Sheet and much more!
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- The 15 mistakes you don't want to make.
- Complete Guide to Most Effective Diets and Why They Work.
- Complete and track your first workout today, no gym required.
Okay, that's about it.
But really quick, before anyone yells at me in the comments, I know that a lot of Aussies and Kiwis are NF rebels, and I know it's almost summer down there. You can laugh at us whatever you want, your winter will come soon enough. Oh it will.
Now let's hear from you:
What do you do when things get tough, when the temperature drops and life is busy as hell?
How do you defend yourself
What are your favorite tricks or systems to use to keep you on track?
Leave your comment below and share it with your rebel colleagues.
P.S. If the cold weather brings you down, this guide can be helpful in overcoming the winter blues.
Photo source: Jörg Huettenhoelscher © 123RF.com, ÐœÐ¸Ñ… Ð ° Ð¸Ð »Ð? Ñ… Ð ° Ð½Ð¾Ð² © 123RF.com, Ivanko Brnjakovic © 123RF.com