Winter is approaching, and when it's cold, it's harder to stay motivated about health and fitness. In fact, some of us postpone our exercise plans to the end of winter.
But it doesn't have to be that way, said fitness specialist and nutritionist Isilda da Costa.
Da Costa told HuffPost that it all starts in the mind. You need to will yourself to work out, knowing very well waking up and going to the gym, or exercising at home, may be the last thing your body wants to do in winter. "If you tell yourself you can't, then that's exactly the outcome," she told HuffPost.
Here are her top tips:
1. Keep active
This may be the hardest one to maintain in the winter season because in cold weather, we'd much rather be indoors, cuddled up and warm and probably indulging in comfort food.
Yet keeping active not only keeps you in shape, it strengthens your immune system so it can fight off bacterial and viral infections better and releases feel-good, de-stressing brain chemicals called endorphins.
Da Costa added that finding an exercise you particularly enjoy, like Zumba, or a step class, or the gym, if you are someone who prefers a controlled environment. "Whatever it is, make sure you enjoy it, so you can stick to it."
2. Drink plenty of water
In the winter months particularly, we tend to struggle to keep up with our water intake, yet "water is your best friend", said da Costa. Staying hydrated can help you avoid overeating, as some people confuse thirst for hunger. Water has also been proven to increase your metabolism, thus boosting your body's ability to burn fat, and aids with digestion, among other things.
So drink your water, and if it's too cold for your liking in winter, drink it warm with a gentle squeeze of lemon.
3. Mind your diet
What you eat is very important, said da Costa, as your eating habits could cancel out any exercise session.
She recommends opting for all-natural and whole foods, and including plenty fruit and vegetables in your winter diet. "The more fresh and close to nature you can keep your meals, the more your body will maintain its natural, healthy balanced weight."
"Everything in moderation," she added. "You can have pizza and cake — just preferably not both at the same time or too often."
4. Eat foods rich in Vitamin C
We all know that Vitamin C can help keep the flu away, but this becomes more vital during the winter months when our immune systems are more prone to picking up illnesses. The gym is also more likely to hold bacteria, so be sure to eat Vitamin C-rich foods like oranges, pineapples, strawberries, Brussels sprouts and peppers.
"You don't want to be out sick for weeks when you could be training, because you didn't take your Vitamin C," said da Costa.
5. Get an accountability partner
If you have a friend you can go to the gym with, that's great, as the two of you can be each other's accountability partners — sometimes, all you need is a little friendly push to encourage you to work out.
If you can't find a friend, tell a colleague or your partner about your winter fitness goals, so at least there's one more person who'll know and can help you keep accountable should you get demotivated.