December is a rough month for exercising. So is February. January gets a pass because it's the New Year, and that keeps people motivated, but the rest of winter gets the "epic fail" stamp when it comes to keeping fit. Even if you're the sportiest of sporty women, don't be surprised to find your motivation flagging. To keep things interesting during the coldest months of the year, switch things up a bit and subscribe to the "Do this, not that" plan of exercise attack.
1. Do sports, not running
You don't have to give up your running habit for good, just switch it up for a couple months by enlisting in a sports program like indoor soccer, basketball or water polo. You'll still stay fit and healthy, and you might actually improve your overall fitness level. In case you haven't noticed, running takes place in a single plane of motion, while sports require you to move in multiple directions at the drop of a hat. Playing sports will allow you to enhance your physical fitness by engaging your muscles in new ways while also improving balance, agility and coordination.
2. Do walking, not swimming
There is nothing wrong with swimming, but sometimes it's good to take your workout onto solid land. Not only do land-based workouts allow you to avoid the chill of getting into and out of the pool during the winter, they're also weight bearing, so they can help improve bone density and muscular strength. Hit the treadmill or join a walking group to keep yourself challenged this winter.
3. Do personal training, not classes
People who attend fitness classes are usually extremely loyal to their instructors and peers, but think for a minute about how much you could benefit from some one-on-one training for a few months. Personal trainers can create a plan of attack to address your specific strengths and weaknesses, while providing you with new knowledge regarding exercises, nutrition and total-body health. Plus, it's a lot harder to skip out on a workout when you know someone's waiting for you to show up.
4. Do Pilates or power yoga, not strength training
Strength training is a phenomenal way to stay in shape, but even die-hard weight lifters can get in a rut. You may have a hard time making the switch to power yoga or Pilates, but the change of pace will do you some good. Not only will these two forms of exercise help you identify muscle imbalances that you should work on, they'll also force you to work on your flexibility - something most strength trainers are notoriously bad at doing.
5. Do trampolining, not cardio machines
There are benefits of cardio machines: they allow you to exercise inside, they take the guesswork out of a workout and they allow you to watch shows or read magazines while exercising. That said, they're also known for their boredom-factor. If you're having a hard time finding the motivation to hit the gym and hop on a cardio machine, check to see if there's a trampoline gym in your city. These fantastically fun centers are popping up all around the country because you can get an excellent workout while having a blast doing it. Most centers even offer instructor-led fitness classes so you can get your workout on while acting like a kid!
6. Do dancing, not yoga
If you're a die-hard yogi, it's time to put some of that flexibility to use on the dance floor! Hit the gym to take a Zumba class or sign up for salsa lessons at your local dance studio. You'll boost your cardiovascular fitness while working on a new kind of balance and coordination.
7. Do cycling, not dancing
While there's nothing wrong with dancing, if you need a new challenge this winter, definitely try cycling. Not only will the workouts challenge your muscular strength and endurance, they'll also require a new kind of mental toughness to push through the hard parts and race toward the finish. Start out by taking a group cycling class at your gym, but don't underestimate the power of an exhilarating outdoor ride. See if you can round up a few friends to hit the trails with you on a warm-ish winter day.
8. Do water aerobics, not walking
Just like swimmers need to try walking, walkers need to get in the pool! Water aerobics classes are just plain fun (and don't write them off as being for "old ladies" - that's a sad misconception). Plus, they allow you to increase flexibility while challenging your muscles to work in multiple planes of motion. By trying water aerobics for just a few months, you may be surprised at how much more balanced your body feels.
9. Do rock climbing, not cycling
Cycling is great for cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance; but, like walking and running, it doesn't allow you to move in multiple planes of motion. Given the competitive nature of most cyclists, the challenge of rock climbing will keep you focused, but it will also require you to enhance your strength and flexibility in ways you never suspected.
10. Do a fusion class, not "whatever"
If you're the type to show up at the gym, not quite sure what you're going to try that day, it's time to give yourself some structure. Fusion classes are great because they incorporate a number of different types of exercise. This is perfect for the "whatever" type of exerciser, because you won't find yourself getting bored after a single session. Plus, you'll be more likely to stick with your routine when you know the instructor and your peers have become accustomed to seeing you there.
Image courtesy of Lululemon Athletica: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lululemonathletica/3438348387/sizes/z/in/set-72157616717451262/