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When I wake up and check the weather, it’s hard not to double-take at the “feels like four degrees” here in the Twin Cities. It’s also hard not to think that our YMCA will undoubtedly be busier than normal. After all, who really wants to be outside exercising when it’s that cold?

We know a few things happen in the winter months:

  1. People miss the sun — it’s dark and cold. Exercising is a great way for your members to beat the winter blues, stay warm and keep an upbeat attitude. 
  2. People gain weight. Colder weather means comfort food, and comfort food means calories. Those holiday parties certainly don’t make healthy eating any easier. 
  3. Our facilities get busier — more people on the same amount of equipment. 

The first thing I think is how do we support our members? What can we do to help make sure our members are happy, upbeat, healthy and active when the temperature drops and the motivation fades?

  • Always make it fun. Use creative challenges and activities to keep members engaged and active. Can they climb a mountain on the step mill, or row down a river on the rowing machine? What about using the stationary bike to ride across the state? Create challenges for members to try new machines, and use local distances or elevations.
  • Encourage weight maintenance. Motivate your members to simply maintain their weight through the holidays. Hold a pre-Thanksgiving weigh-in with your personal trainers, and then a New Year’s weigh-in when the holiday season is wrapping up. If your members can maintain their weight, reward them.
  • Educate members. Hold information sessions with group exercise instructors and personal trainers, so when your facility gets busy, members have new options and creative ways to stay active.
  • Make a warm space. Create social spaces, events and activities for your members who venture out into the cold and snow. Allow them time and space to chat with friends, make new ones and talk about all the goings on.

There is no doubt the monotony of winter can get us all down and puts some real barriers on our healthy lifestyle choices. But if we plan ahead, get creative and walk the walk with our members, this winter can be fun, exciting and full of goal-shattering workouts.


Courtney Harrness is a multi-site executive director for the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities.


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