You know that winter has set in when you find yourself retrieving the de-icer from the glove compartment, and your warmest jumpers from the depths of your cupboard. With colder weather and darker evenings comes the natural instinct to want to stay indoors and stock up on homely, comfort foods. For many of us, it’s also the toughest time to keep on track with our fitness programmes. So, at this tricky time of year, what are the best tips to avoid the weight gain and dip in fitness levels?

Avoid winter weight gain

#1. Keep a workout schedule

When we say this, we don’t mean logged in your mind. It’s far too easy to skip a workout when it’s not put in writing. Get a proper weekly schedule. This could be pinned up somewhere you won’t miss it on a daily basis, or it could be a digital plan. If you go for the latter though, you’ll need to be extra attentive, or you could set reminders for yourself to alert you into action. It sounds simple, but it really does work so much better than having no set schedule. Even better, get a workout buddy or someone you can rely on to push you into action on those days you really think you’d rather sit on the sofa and watch Friends re-runs, rather than smash a 20-minute HIIT session.

#2. Stock up on healthy snacks

It’s all too easy to reach for convenient comfort foods in the winter months. To avoid those less healthy snacks, such as chocolate, crisps and cakes, take a bit of time to stock up on nutritious snacks that are still tasty and filling, but will be far less likely to add to your waistline. Protein-rich snacks, such as Greek yogurt (made all the more comforting with a dollop of pureed fruit or healthy granola), nuts, beef jerky, energy bites, cottage cheese and hummus with vegetables are great, or try making some comforting sweet healthy snacks, such as Livia’s Kitchen’s blueberry porridge squares  or Joe Wicks’s Carrot and Apple Muffins. Of course, simple whole fruit and vegetable snacks are great too. If they’re the snacks you have on offer in the house and at work, you’ll eat them and you’ll enjoy them as long as you choose the ones you naturally like.

#3. Keep an eye on things

Whether you want to focus on the scales, a tape measure, or just how well your clothes fit (perhaps the least trustworthy of the three), make sure you set regular times to check things. If the scales start to creep up (and you know that, if you’re honest, it’s down to those extra calories you’ve been enjoying rather than muscle gain from all the weights sessions), or you’re having to pull that tape measure extra tight to get the numbers you want, you’ll have that incentive to cut back and get working out more. Likewise, if you see that all is at it was (or even better), you can pat yourself on the back and be on your merry way.

 #4. Try switching up your workout

It can be hard to find the motivation to exercise when it’s cold and you’re being drawn in by the comforting sight of your sofa. One way to stop exercise being a chore is to mix up your routine and try something new. Look for different types of exercise that will get you motivated and excited to train, such as invigorating HIIT sessions (they’re short too, so you can be reunited with your sofa that bit faster), some new strength training exercises you’ve not tried before, or invest in some new fitness equipment to keep things fresh. This could be a big buy, such as an elliptical cross trainer, treadmill or multi-gym, or some new dumbbells.

#5. Food shop online

Not only can this help you avoid those less than healthy foods, but this can be great for your bank balance too! If you purchase all your food for the week online, you can consciously avoid the unhealthier options. With the time saved not traipsing round the aisles, you have that bit of extra time to make note of all the healthy foods you need beforehand. And there’s no excuse of not being able to find things, thanks to the handy search button on all supermarkets’ websites. If you’re strict and make sure you buy all the food you need, including allowance for snacks, you won’t need to shop mid-week or hit the office vending machine. You will likely find you save money, which can be used for some new fitness equipment, maybe? And as online shopping is faster, you can get a workout in with that extra time!

If you’ve got some great tips for staying on track with your health and fitness during the winter months, let us know in the comments, or get in touch on Twitter or Facebook.