When it’s cold and icy outside, it’s hard to motivate yourself to do any kind of winter exercise like going out for a walk or a run, never mind clearing off the car to drive to a health club. What’s more, time off from regular workouts because of the winter holidays makes getting back into the swing of daily exercise a lot tougher.
Add in those motivation sapping winter blues and you can see why even regular exercisers might find it tough to workout during the long winter months. But the reward, if you make the effort, won’t just be to your body when bathing suit season comes along, but also to your overall health and mood according to exercise experts out of Saint Louis University.
If you’re struggling to exercise the experts suggest you think outside the same old workout and get creative. Consider swimming or water aerobics at an indoor pool, or attend a Pilates, yoga or other workout class you’ve been curious to try. Walk the mall or join a walking group that forces you to be accountable to someone else besides yourself. You might also look at your libraries selection of workout videos you can check out for free.
Winter sports also offer lots of fun ways to exercise. Ice skating and skiing are both winter activities that burn lots of calories, and allow you to enjoy the fresh air and cold sunshine as well.
Winter chores like shoveling the drive or walkway are workouts that get you moving and get a bit of work done to boot. Even a snowball fight or an afternoon sledding with the kids can be a fun, natural and effective way to get your heart pumping and your body moving.
By making some adjustments to your exercise routine during the winter months you can still get those workouts in according to Tony Breitbach, Ph.D, director of athletic training education at Saint Louis University. “A change in weather should bring a change to your mindset,” he advises. “As temperatures get colder you need to have a winter sports strategy.”
Just what is that? Start by looking at what you wear. Extreme cold, wind and snow make it vital to dress properly – wearing layers you can take off as you need to. The layer closest to your skin should be of a breathable wicking fabric rather than sweat absorbing cotton.
To this add a layer of fleece or cotton for warmth, and then a windbreaker or another outer layer that blocks wind and water. Don’t forget to protect your face, fingers and toes – as these extremities are the most likely to get frostbitten while you’re out in the cold. If you start to have pain or tingling in your ears, toes or fingers this is a signal that you need to get inside and warm up.
And just as mom always told you, don’t forget the hat. Even though it’s cold and raw outside, you’ll still want to bring along that water bottle, as staying hydrated during winter workouts is just as important as it is during the summer.
While you might not feel as thirsty, you’ll still need to take in liquid as you exercise. If your outdoor workout occurs in the early winter darkness, be sure to wear light colors or reflective clothing so that drivers can spot you easily. Probably most important of all to winter workouts are the warm ups you do before your outdoor exercising begins. Cold weather makes muscles tight and more prone to injury, so you’ll want to pay special attention to your warm up.
Before you head out, do some stretching or other exercises to loosen up those muscles… then when you get out, start with a brisk walk before breaking into a jog. Once you’ve finished the workout don’t stop and peel off clothing when you get back inside – instead let your body adjust gradually to the warmth so that it doesn’t rapidly lose its heat.
By keeping up an winter exercise routine, indoors or out, during the colder months you’ll not only keep your weight under control, but you’ll be improving your health, your strength and stamina, not to mention your mood, just in time for spring!