It’s said that beach bodies are made in the winter, but that’s only true in practice for a handful of people. Many of us set ambitious exercise goals after New Year’s only to let them lapse after a few weeks or months.
That’s in part because short, colder days can take a physiological and cognitive toll on our bodies and minds, making wintertime fitness programs harder to stick with than they’d be in the summer. Extended daylight hours not only tend to boost mood and energy levels overall, but they also give you extra time to spend outdoors. But some of it comes down to motivation, too. Some researchers have claimed that choosing an exercise routine simply out of a desire to look better can actually leave you feeling more depressed, even as you work toward your fitness goals. So it’s important to pick an exercise plan this summer that improves your mood as well as your cardio. Here are a few to try out.
Get outdoors to de-stress
Forsake the four walls of your yoga studio this summer and try an outdoor class. Many of these pop up this time of year all over the country, in parks and green spaces and on public beaches. Refinery29 recently rounded up a handful of options in the New York City area to fit various styles of yoga and budgets; a simple Google search for “[your town/city] outdoor yoga” should pull up similar options.
The point is to try adopting a fitness practice that gets you outside, so you can tap into the associated benefits, which include stress-reduction and creativity. If yoga isn’t really your thing, go for a hike in nature after work, now that you have a few extra hours of evening daylight.
Speed up your gym routine
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is not for the faint of heart. The name of the game here is faster, more intense workouts that take less time–and yes, they’re exhausting. Try switching to a HIIT workout in the depths of February and there’s a decent chance you’ll have called it quits by May. But summer may be easier to stick with it.
My personal favorite form of HITT is called “Tabata intervals,” where you do each exercise (like jump squats, planking, etc.) for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, then repeat. Normally HIIT sessions are 25–30 minutes long, plus a quick cool-down and stretching period. Most are designed to tone up the lower and upper body as well as the core, and–best of all for this time of year–can typically be done in a park outdoors, just using using your own body weight. If you like highly stimulating, challenging workouts and feel short on time, this option is for you.
Make your commute more active
This is the season for walking to work, getting off a few subway stations early, or parking further away from your office. Better yet, try cycling to the office–as long as your city or town isn’t so punishingly hot during the summer that you’d arrive drenched in sweat. Keep your work shoes at the office and opt for an ergonomic day bag you can throw on your back while you bike in.
Join a team
Sign up for a volleyball, soccer, or other group sports league. You can pick one that runs just the length of the summer if you just want to try out something new without committing indefinitely. Not into competitive team sports? There are running and cycling clubs, too. These are all great options if you thrive in social groups, have a hard time staying motivated working out alone, and/or want to build more social interaction into your workweek. Social connection has been shown to be as important to your health as not smoking, so it’s a great excuse to get out there.
Carve out some solo time
Need some “me” time this summer? There’s a fitness regimen for you, too. Try swimming at a local outdoor pool, or even a lake, before or after work. Or go for a jog outdoors by yourself. It’s a great chance to get some quiet time in addition to a full-body and cardio workout. Introverts and other personality types who need time alone to reflect and recharge can benefit from getting into a flow that may feel almost meditative. If you find this type of exercise boring, grab bluetooth headphones and build a playlist to keep you motivated; I’ve tested out this waterproof pair by Sony that works great for swimmers.
It’s not too late to get in shape for summer and find a fitness routine that you’ll actually want to stick with through the fall. Just don’t wait to get started!