How to awaken healthy habits in winter

As the winter darkness sets in, it feels more and more difficult to stick to your healthy habits. Our Wellness Director Ali Roff invites you to challenge your routine and create a new, life-changing practice…


How to awaken healthy habits in winter

4 minute read

Two years ago, you’d find me shuffling out of the chilly darkness after a day at work, dumping my bags and pep-talking myself into lacing up my trainers and going back out into the bleak winter darkness for a run. An evening run on a balmy summer’s evening can be blissful. An evening run as icy raindrops smash into your face is torture. I’d procrastinate, eventually drag myself out, do my thing, come home and spend 45 minutes warming up and showering, only to find I had just enough time to cook and eat dinner before bed. Evening over. No time for lolling on the sofa with a good book or a Netflix show.

Worse would be to throw my trainers back in the cupboard with a feeling of sluggish guilt. The catch 22 is, in winter, we naturally want to hibernate, yet exercise increases energy and mood – fighting back SAD symptoms and that dusky afternoon slump.

What I was doing was great; healthy meals, daily movement. It was when I was doing it that was making it unenjoyable. I had to make a change. I was never going to stick to my health goals if it made me miserable.

I decided that if I wanted my evenings back, I’d need to find another time to exercise. But when? Jumping jacks in the office? Not ideal. Then I had a crazy idea. What if I just got up a little earlier? I decided to set my alarm half an hour earlier than usual. As the alarm went off the following morning, I groaned. Why did I put myself though this? Bleary eyed, I swung my feet to the floor and managed to get up.

Healthy change

I’m not going to lie, if I get to bed a little late now, I still feel like this in the mornings. But as with any habit, after repetitive conscious action (typically for at least 18 days) you find your body running the motions automatically. Now, some days, I jump up raring to go and happily run 5k. Others, I’m zombie-like but, before I know it, I’m always wide-awake sprinting across the park, swimming at the gym or doing burpees in my lounge.

The best part? Surprisingly, getting my evenings back comes first place to having indulgent time before work to wake up slowly before my brain needs to engage at my desk; to reflect on the day ahead and enjoy a small slice of time all to myself while working out. As I get to the office, I feel fantastic. A sense of achievement sits alongside a fizz of energy and that blissful feeling of an evening to look forward to. Now, I rarely miss a workout, I never dread it and, consequently, I’m fitter, stronger and happier. With a simple set of an alarm, I changed a habit, and changed my life.

Why it’s time to kick-start your morning workout NOW

  • As the clocks go back, go to bed an hour earlier and set your alarm an hour earlier. Your body clock won’t notice any difference.
  • Habits work on cues. Place your workout kit in the bathroom before bed. Brushing your teeth every morning becomes your cue to get dressed for your early run/yoga/swim.
  • Research shows early workouts help you sleep, let hormones help build muscle and increase metabolism, give you an energy boost and lower anxiety levels, plus exercising after fasting is more effective for weight management.

Ali’s debut book The Wellfulness Project will be published December 26th 2019 by Aster. Follow Ali at @AliRoff and visit her website to find out more about her and her wellness retreats.

Image: Laura Doherty