“Is it just me, or is it so much harder to feel motivated to exercise in summer?”

The sun is meant to make us motivated to work out, but how many of us really spend our summer months running and lifting, asks writer Chloe Gray? 

It’s easier to be healthier in the summer. By 6am, the sun is shining – making it harder to stay in bed rather than go for a pre-breakfast jog. You crave fresh salads and watermelon. The long evenings are made for lengthy strolls or lido swims. The summer is the most motivating time of the year to keep up your health and fitness routines. Right?

So is it just me who hasn’t been to the gym in over a month? Instead, I’ve been at festivals and then recovering from said festivals, visiting my parents to spend weekends in their gardens, trying to avoid the pain of running in 30°C heat by going to the pub, and prioritising friendship, sleep and basking in the sunlight. The rest of the season is set to be a litany of staycations, hen dos and birthday parties – not workouts, races or vegetable-dense eating plans. 

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Yet everyone around meseems to love running without the fear of rain and eating well before their holidays (although, much of that is undoubtedly to do with the pressure to look a certain way before their trips). But when I asked my friend how her new gym programme was going, she replied: “I haven’t consistently exercised in weeks. I’ve been at work events, at the pub or on holiday. Why is it so hard to be healthy in summer?”

And the pair of us aren’t alone. In a small poll I conducted on Instagram, 66% said they find it hard to keep exercising amid the chaos of the summer months. Even more interesting, just 14% said they find it harder to exercise in the winter than in the summer. That goes against everything we’re told about the dark mornings and cold weather knocking our motivation. 

As a Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferer, I get where the stereotype of winter laziness comes from. But to me, the winter is about hibernation; it’s a time to focus on myself and my goals, while the summer is a time to be more spontaneous and packing in the things like partying in the outdoors to my favourite bands or sitting in the sun with friends. 

Exercise is often swapped for plans with friends

Of course, there’s no perfect time to work on our fitness – there will always be other things to do, beds to lie in or parties to attend. To some, being disciplined means saying ‘no’ to the excess of summer and maintaining the workout schedule that makes us feel good. But that’s not how I see it.

It’s useful to know that our priorities naturally ebb and flow. It’s ok to have jam-packed weekends in the few months a year when people want to get outside. It’s ok to not want to run in boiling heat. It’s ok to not want to strive for the expected #healthygirlsummer green goodness salad and have a bowl of chips and a Magnum next to a pool if that is what you want.

It also reigns true that reframing our attitudes to what being ‘fit’ and ‘healthy’ means can remove some of the stress and guilt over these changing routines. Over my most recent weekend at Glastonbury, I didn’t lift weights or do yoga, but I did 140,000 steps in four days – quite the fitness feat. I didn’t prioritise my vegetable intake, but I ate a lot of delicious vegan meals from award-winning food trucks and I chose to focus on the incredible flavour and fibre that were in those paellas and breakfast bowls. 

I’m not arguing it was my most healthy weekend, but there’s value in noticing these small things we do that support our body instead of seeing it as time ‘off’. 

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When I ask other people how they get around the difficulty of summer, the replies are similarly compassionate. If you’re struggling to stay motivated and can’t bear the idea of your weekends being filled with long runs or gym classes, PT Chlo Hodgkinson recommends “fitting classes into your work schedule and taking the weekends off.” By marking those days for spontaneity, you’re not setting yourself up for failure when plans take over. “Do lots of walks in new locations,” adds Strong Women reader Rhea. Another reader, Krista, adds: “I love the training I do so it doesn’t feel like a chore”, showing that fitness should be enjoyable rather than something we feel guilty about.

Yes, summer might be a hard time to stick to your routine. But being OK with that has made me feel healthier than ever. 

Images: Getty

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