I know that if I don't work out by 10 am, the chances of my heading to the gym are slim.
And if I have to start layering up just to get there, I become just another walking cliché among the winter workout dropouts. When it's cold, rainy, snowy, or just overall gross, and I'm just not feeling it, chances are I just won't work out. But my body feels it: We all know when we're overdue for exercise.
As an alcoholic (now five years sober, thankyouverymuch), I've never been a fan of moderation; why not eat those two cookies left in the package after I've already had five? Why wouldn't I have 64 varieties of tea stocked in my pantry for the winter?
But health and fitness expert Emily Skye, whose workout regimens and get-fit tips have effectively earned her nearly 10 million Facebook fans and over 11 million on Instagram, says that working out "some" is always better than not working out at all. Her alternative to rotting away this winter is to knock out a quick and dirty workout at home—a few golden minutes of cardio and circuits before returning to a respectable, sloth-like cold-weather existence.
First, she says, blast some energizing music (bass-heavy trap or some classic Tay-Tay works well), turn off all distractions and do a few reps of the exercises you know how to do: crunches, squats, lunges, and push-ups.
"There are so many things around the house that you can use to create a great workout," Skye says. I decide to take her advice. I grab two ("sport" sized) bottles of water to use as weights, and get going on bicep curls, shoulder presses, tricep extensions and kickbacks.
I spend about seven minutes doing three reps of ten all of the above on rotation, and my arms actually begin to burn. My body feels warm. It's happening, I think. I will soon go from soft, GrubHub-addicted hermit to a sinewy sex god.
Then I remember her second piece of advice: In order to see results, the last few reps of each exercise should be almost impossible to complete.
"Your heart rate should rise quite high and you should be breathing rapidly," Skye notes. "If these things aren't happening then chances are you're not pushing yourself hard enough."
Skye advised that even if my workout lasts five minutes—especially if it's that short—I need to go hard. I grumble and sit back at my computer. Maybe tomorrow I'd do 15 reps each. Maybe. But not today, Skye. Not today.
Fast forward, it's tomorrow, and her words echo in my mind: there are a heap of equipment-free exercises you can do such as squats, lunges, core work, pushups, mountain climbers, or burpees, and you can use a chair for tricep dips, chair pushups, or Bulgarian split squats.
I have a ton of work to do today, and despite three cups of coffee, I don't feel like lifting a toe. There's a scientific explanation for this, actually: The reason we get more sluggish in the winter is because we don't get as much sunlight, which causes our brain to produce more melatonin, the substance that makes us feel sleepy. The lack of Vitamin D that the sun provides also contributes to this feeling. Plus, we tend to hibernate, indulge in richer foods, and spend more time indoors eating Talenti out of the container. All this, ironically, is what makes winter the time our bodies need exercise the most.
Since my arms now feel like jelly, I figure, let's try working out my core. Skye suggests using a big bag of rice to do core work, like crunches and Russian twists, but since I'm the Uncle Ben's Instant-from-a-box type, I grab a single five-pound weight I have lying around and try my hand at it, doing 30 crunches at a time and stopping halfway through the second set to check my phone. A friend's name flashes on the caller ID, a welcome distraction.
"The most important thing to remember while doing home workouts is to make sure you're not distracted by household duties or your computer, TV, or phone," Skye's words appear in my mind like skywriting on the ceiling.
So I ignore the call and stay put on my yoga mat, leave my phone where it lies, make a mental note to call Lindsey back in 15 minutes, and get this twisting over with so I can return to the subtle ass-dent I've made in my sofa.
And, lo and behold, there's the Skye-writing again: she specifically told me not to go through the movements of each exercise "aimlessly."
"It's all about challenging yourself when you exercise, or you're not going to see any change," she says. So I focus on the view out the window at the the mailman sloshing through piss-colored snow, and squat away until it feels like my thighs are on fire.
I have to wonder, are these tiny sets for ten minutes a day really going to make a difference, or should I just save my energy for those two to three days a week where I'm actually going to bundle up and leave my home to toil on the elliptical and then the rowing machine for an hour, collectively?
I often have to remind myself that exercising for immediate physical results will often just lead me to disappointment. Am I in good shape? Yes. Am I healthy? Fairly. Do I also have this perpetual extra pound or two that refuses to leave its permanent home in my tummy? You bet your ass I do. But the reason I work out is because it makes me feel better mentally. I feel like I've invested in myself, released pent up stress and energy, and scored some endorphins.
On a good day, working out can make us feel happier. "I used fitness to help me overcome depression," Skye says, "and I believe moving more and eating nutritious food play an important role in managing depression, anxiety and stress.
Start small, with a few quick hacks that, even at your most sluggish, you can't say no to, recommends fitness expert Jay Cardiello. In the morning and at night, stand on one leg while brushing your teeth or do squats to help build muscles and improve your balance. Do crunches in your bed first thing in the morning, or try a couch workout when you're getting your Netflix fix at night.
At the end of the day, every little bit counts. "If you're feeling unmotivated in the winter, remind yourself of all the benefits of working out and how great you¹ll feel after," Skye says. "You need to decide whether you're happy staying just as you are now, or whether you need to get out of your comfort zone and make some changes and commit to your fitness."