Longer nights and shorter days, cold and raining days… all of these spell winter, and it is sometimes enough to derail even the most avid fitness fan’s exercise routine. But instead of hibernating under a warm blanket on the couch, find an expert to help you create an exciting and challenging winter training programme that will keep the covers and the calories off.

“It is always difficult to train during winter, and we all seem to struggle to keep fit and healthy. However, it is those short days and long nights that make us feel tired and exhausted,” says Dexter Chapman, fitness manager at Maties Gymnasium. According to him, that feeling you get during winter has a name: it is called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

“The treatment of this is simple: you need exposure to the sun and to exercise. Having a training program that includes some designated outside time will help you keep healthy and feel good during winter,” said Dexter.

According to him, he will include the following four things in his winter training programme:

* a good, progressive warm-up, because exercising on warm muscles prevents injuries;

* a good dose of cardio and weight training daily;

* include some mobility exercises and do sufficient stretches; and

* layer up before leaving the gymnasium to prevent you from getting sick.


How much of each is needed?

Dexter says people always ask him what the ratio between cardio and weight training should be in their training programme.

His advice is that if your fitness goal is to lose weight and to stay fit, a 50:50 ratio will do the trick. “On average, you should be aiming to elevate the heart rate for at least 30 minutes. On the other hand, if you would like to build muscle, you should predominantly focus on weight training as this will show the best results.”


Starting from scratch

For the beginner, Dexter’s advice is not to go too fast, too soon. “A progressive program that increases each week is best to avoid getting injured and burnout. Always listen to your body, and take a break or a recovery day when you feel the need for that.”


What you put in…

We sometimes eat a little more during the winter months than what we should do, and quickly you carry one or two kilograms too many. Dexter recommends that those who want to eat healthily and keep on track should prepare their meals a day in advance. “Prepare yourselves some wholesome meals, with lots of colourful vegetables. These kinds of foods tend to make you feel fuller for longer and give you those immune-boosting vitamins you need.”


Get a buddy

If you are worried that you might not be strong enough to stay motivated throughout the cold winter days ahead, get yourself a training buddy, says Dexter. “As buddies, you will hold each other accountable to get to the gym. Even a simple start chart on your fridge will go a long way to keep you visibly responsible to visit the gym.


Dexter shared with us an easy-to-follow and maintain winter programme:

He advises that one starts with a general warm-up routine to prime the muscles for the workout to follow. The warm-up can even mimic the movements of the workout or take on the form of a progressive cardio warm-up starting as a walk and building up to a fast jog over a period of five to ten minutes.


The programme:

* Progressive walk to run for five minutes

* 2 X sets of circuit workout A, comprising of:

  • 5 X narrow stance bodyweight squats;
  • 5/5 X T-plank rotations; and
  • 5/5 X mountain climbers

In the workout portion of the program, the focus is on a large full range of movements through the joints. Currently, circuit-based workouts are trending as you will complete multiple movements in a short amount of time.

* 3 X sets circuit workout B, comprising of:

  • 15 X squad jumps
  • 10 X hands-to-elbow plank
  • 5 X full burpees

* As many sets as possible in 10 min circuit workout C, comprising of:

  • 15 X lunges
  • 10 X mountain climbers
  • 2 X 25m runs

Finally, we want to focus on stretching out the same muscles that we used in the workout with the cool down.

* 3 sets of:

  • 30-sec quad stretch
  • 30-sec hamstring stretch
  • 30-sec chest opening stretch


Get personal

So if you want that summer body, remember it is made in winter. At Maties Gymnasium, a team of fitness coaches can work with you to create a personalised fitness programme to suit your goals. Contact the gym by sending an email to gymsales@sun.ac.za, and one of the team members will contact you for an appointment.