How to Battle the Winter Eff Its
It’s the dead of winter here in Boston.
And while this winter has been pretty “tame” thus far compared to winters past, it doesn’t renege on the fact that the cold, grayness, and general sense of laziness and malaise the weather imbues upon the northeast every year this time of year takes its toll after a while.
More specifically – and speaking firsthand – my enthusiasm towards training has been waning of late; particularly the last week or two.
In short: I’m battling an aggressive case of the “Eff Its.”
Tony, Do You Need a Hug?
First of all: I’ll never turn down a good hug.
Second: It’s completely normal to feel low-energy, stiff, sore, or otherwise unmotivated to train in the dead of winter anywhere. The northeast – and Boston in particular – is not unique to this phenomenon.
We all go through it.
(yes even us hoity toity fitness professionals)
The feeling can range anywhere from preferring to jump into a live volcano to, in less dramatic circles, staying home and catching up on Stranger Things.2
Either way you slice it the idea of heading to the gym (in any capacity) is low on the “to do” list.
But outside of injecting an energy drink directly into your left ventricle (<– not recommend by the way) what are some ways to initiate a spark in your training mojo?
Feel It. Accept It. Carry On
My wife, Dr. Lisa Lewis, likes to remind people that it’s okay to feel their feelings.
Take, for instance, how much I hate emptying the dishwasher.
I hate it with a passion.
Maybe even more than kipping pull-ups.
The only way I can best articulate how much I hate emptying the dishwasher is that whenever it needs emptying, at that very moment I open the door to put something in that’s dirty only to then be punched in the face (nay, soul) by the escaping steam permeating from a recent wash, if there were somehow a theme song I could attach to that feeling, it would be Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name.”
You know the one…
“Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me. Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me. Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me.”
So on and so forth, followed be me running through a pane glass window.
Anyway, Lisa is all about feeling the feelings…
…letting them in, accepting them, allowing them to marinate for a moment.
And then, you know, turning the page and doing whatever it is you need to do.
Read: Putting the dishes away…;o)
Now, what does this have to do with the “Eff Its” and not feeling like going to the gym on squat day?
You have two options:
1) Maybe you DO need a day or two off from training.
There’s no harm in this.
- You’re not less of a person,
- You’re not going to lose all your gainz,
- You’re not going to be sent to Azkaban
- You’re just being human.
Stay home, hang out with your cat, write poetry.
Or, I don’t know, might I suggest The Outsider on HBO?3
Sometimes we all just need a mental health day.
Or, better yet…
2) Perform ONE Lift and Go Home
Perform a Bloop, Bloop, Bloop warm-up (or workout) and/or then hit ONE lift hard and go home.
There are any number of permutations here:
- Work up to a heavy triple or set of five on a compound movement like a squat, deadlift, or bench press variation. Then take 10-15% off THAT number and perform an additional 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps for some added volume.
- Take your estimated 10 rep max on any particular exercise, reduce the load to 90% of THAT number and then perform 2-3 sets shooting for the maximum number of repetitions possible OR stopping 1-2 reps short of failure. I don’t care.
I like this approach because it keeps people consistent AND it’s less likely to derail someone’s world in that they’re less prone to beat themselves up for missing a workout.
Nothing sexy or Earth shattering, but a nice reframe nonetheless.
EDIT: I’d be remiss not to mention to get your Vitamin D levels checked as well. It’s well documented that people who live in areas where it’s cold or have limited exposure to sun have low(er) levels of Vitamin D which can have negative ramifications on mood and sense of well-being.
This applies to people who live in areas with ample sun, too. Just because you live in Florida, Hawaii, or, I don’t know Wakanda, doesn’t mean you’re immune to low levels of Vitamin D.