Winter fitness plan

Wintry Mt. Fuji

Wintry Mt. Fuji

Winter has finally set in, although many will say that it landed in Tokyo a few weeks ago. In any case, I know that winter has finally set in because this morning I decided to stay in bed, under the covers, instead of doing yoga and ski conditioning exercises. This underscored the challenges that winter always brings when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Winter always encourages me to eat more than I want, not just because of the holidays but because it takes me longer to get full or quicker to get hungry. The cold weather makes it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, or go out for an evening run, or sometimes even to go out for a walk at lunch time – and it’s not even that cold in Tokyo compared to snow-covered Hokkaido and many other parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Hence, every winter, I need a plan to give me an edge over cold weather.

I know that there are many blogs and articles on how to beat the winter weight gain. Let me share my humble plan.


Winter run

Winter run

I have to confess that this plan is a variation of my plan to get me running the rest of the year.

  1. I prepare my running clothes, socks, neck warmer, winter cap, and gloves the night before, so that I don’t have to spend time rummaging through my drawer, which usually gives my warm bed enough time to coax me back. In fact, I often sleep with my running tights on.
  2. I sign up for a race, even a short one, and pay the registration fee as soon as possible. Then, I tell others about the race. This keeps me from finding excuses to back out of it, and “encourages” me to train.
  3. I pay myself when I run the whole year round, but in winter, I pay double what I pay myself the rest of the year. It encourages me to run or exercise and fills up my piggy bank a lot faster.
  4. I concentrate on something to improve on in my running. So, I take this opportunity to focus on something I have to work on – speed, uphill running, breathing, or stride length. Or, just enjoying the run on a crisp cool morning.
  5. I promise myself that I’ll exercise for only 10 minutes. I know it’s a mind game, but usually if I go out for a 10-minute run or yoga practice, 10 minutes is never enough. And certain promises are indeed made to be broken.
  6. I bought myself a fitbit.


Small dishes

Small dishes

This is a bit trickier because of the Christmas holidays and New Year holidays. In Japan we have what is called bonnenkai (“forget the year” parties) and Christmas parties in December, and shinnenkai (“New Year” parties) in January. But also, during winter, my appetite increases. Not only that, but it is the tradition in Japan for people to bring back omiyage (souvenirs), usually in the form of cookies, chocolates and other sweets, from their out-of-town or out-of-the-country trips. Here are some things that I try to observe at this time of the year.

  1. I have an afternoon snack so that I am not so hungry before I go to any dinner party. As I’m sure you can see, this keeps me from being a starved party-goer gobbling everything in sight.
  2. I keep a bag where I immediately stash the Christmas cookies and sweet omiyage, and keep the bag where I can’t see it.
  3. If someone brings a home-baked cake, or even a store-bought cake, and shares it in the office, I take a bite of my slice and then put the rest of it in the bin. The person who baked or bought it doesn’t feel slighted and I will have little to complain about my blood sugar or weight.
  4. I wear body-hugging shirts underneath my sweaters and jackets. Sweaters and jackets often effectively cover weight gain, but body-hugging tight clothes are gentle reminders of what the spring will reveal if I don’t moderate my winter eating patterns.
  5. I drink plenty of water, tea and coffee, which keeps me full and far from dehydrated (which is easy to achieve since the cold does not usually encourage hydration).

My plan may not work for everyone, but I hope that some of it may encourage others to keep exercising and eating healthily during the next two to three months.

AND, I’d love to hear your secrets to keeping fit and healthy during winter time.


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