Get ready for winter by shaking up your fitness routine

Treat yourself to some organised indoor exercise to complement outdoor runs, says the Grit Doctor

Q: How can I get myself ready fitness-wise for winter?

A: In the old days the Grit Doctor would have said, "nothing is different in the winter, lace up those trainers and get your backside outdoors for a run". But the Grit Doctor is getting old, and times are changing. I must stop talking about myself in the third person.

So, in preparation for the winter months, I've re-joined the gym.  This is partly because I love the PureGym model (very soon coming to Dublin, so I'm told). I don't feel over committed and out of pocket, because it's such great value and I can cancel at anytime without penalty. It helps that I have a gym buddy too, in the form of our lovely 21-year-old Italian aupair, whose enthusiasm is infectious. She drags me to classes and encourages me to try out new ones that I suspect if left to my own devices I might avoid (circuits, and weights for example).

This gym model is very class-centric, which really works for me. There is a huge amount of fat-busting value in going to the gym for a 20, 30 or 45 minute brutal training session. It’s a much more efficient use of my time than wafting around the equipment by myself, unsure of how to use it properly and too shy to ask.


Don’t think that I’m giving up my runs though.  I’m still running at least three times a week, often more, but at 42, there is wobble in areas that are becoming more resistant to just cardio workouts. My spare tyre is crying out for more specific, targeted work. Focused abdominal sessions and strength training is no longer done sporadically at home when I can be bothered.

Instead I am put through my paces by a series of unbelievably buff trainers in a variety of free classes that are short, sharp and utilise muscles groups I never even knew I had.

Bone density and muscle mass naturally decrease with age.  I am conscious that my ageing bones need greater care and attention. This natural atrophy requires targeted conditioning to combat it, the aim being to keep my body strong enough to continue to run, without increasing my risk of injury.

Motivating myself outside for a run in both spring and summer is effortless; any excuse to get outside for a dose of vitamin D in shorts and a T-shirt.  Less inviting however, is the prospect of layering up and bracing myself if not yet for bitter cold, then certainly inclement conditions and often driving wind and rain.  As this becomes the norm, the pull of the sofa becomes that much more magnetic.

So that’s my advice.  Get ready for winter by shaking up your fitness routine and doing something indoors to complement those outdoor runs – but come spring I’ll be back to my old routine and out running most days instead because the fresh air can’t be beaten.

Rather than continue to just run in autumn and winter but doing it less often and with decreasing enthusiasm, I’ve decided to ramp it up a gear this year to see if I can’t shift this spare tyre before it shifts me permanently into middle age.  If I do a good job of all this extra training, I should be a fitter and faster runner by spring time too. Which means I’ll enjoy it even more.

And it doesn’t have to be a gym.  Maybe you have a local Zumba class in the town hall, or Pilates or yoga, or ballroom dancing or ballet?  The key is to treat yourself to some organised indoor exercise, especially as the darker evenings set in and it’s doubly hard to motivate ourselves outdoors for a run (although if you do do this, I certainly don’t want to put you off.  I applaud your inner grit).  For me, the warm gym across the road is a much more attractive option as I gird my loins for six months of gritty weather.

This will be even more necessary when I consider how many mince pies and mulled wine and hot chocolate and comfort food I will consume before the year is out.  Something has got to give, and I really can’t afford for that to be my waistline anymore.

The Grit Doctor says

For added grit factor, segue from a brutal gym strength session immediately into a five-mile outdoor run.