Keeping Up With Your Fitness During the Winter Months
Cold weather is a great motivator for people to stay inside, cuddled on the couch watching movies. Still, continuing a workout regime throughout these colder times of year is critical, not just to keep oneself in tip-top shape, but for broader health reasons as well.
Some research has found that exercise in the cold can boost the immune system. Serotonin, the brain hormone that is connected to happier moods, is also increased through exercise. This indicates that exercising in winter could help moderate Seasonal Affective Disorder, also called SAD. Time in the sun also helps with enhancing both mood and immunity. The rays from that life giving sphere provide the human body with vitamin D, which is a critical ingredient for health. Spending 10 to 15 minutes in the sun is sufficient, which means that you don’t have to brave the cold for excessive periods of time to reap these benefits. Those unwilling to venture outside for their wintertime workout should think about taking a vitamin D supplement – that’s how important proper vitamin D levels are! Also, those who do go outside in the winter should remember to put sunscreen on after those first 10 to 15 minutes, as sunbeams reflected off the snow can cause severe sunburns on even the coldest days.
Another reason to exercise in winter is that your body burns more calories, as it works not only to keep you moving, but to keep you warm as you move through frigid temperatures. This makes winter the ideal time to try losing weight. To conserve energy, the body also learns to utilize oxygen more efficiently during the winter, which means this time of year is also great for kicking your cardio into shape.
Below, some of the best ways to get your heart pumping in the winter are listed. Most of these activities get practitioners outside into the elements, however, a few that allow one to stay cozily indoors have also been included.
With the proper layering system, it is never too cold to run. Furthermore, cold weather can provide peak performance conditions for running, since heat stress makes this intensive cardio workout more difficult. When the temps dip below freezing, wearing a hat or headband, gloves, and leggings or pants that cover your ankles, is critical for staying comfortable. At truly frigid temps, a face mask may be necessary as well. If you expect to encounter snow or ice on your wintertime runs, investing in a pair of waterproof running shoes and some Yaktrax is also recommended.
Like running, there is no good reason to stop biking in the winter. Fat tire bikes, which have four-inch tires, are specifically designed for moving through snow and mud, but a dirt bike will work just as well. Avoid using your brand new bike though, as snowy, salty roads and muddy trails are sure to make a mess and may cause permanent damage to your bike. To mitigate the damage, be sure to immediately wash your bike after a winter ride.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Hitting the slopes on skis or a snowboard is a quintessential wintertime activity, which is sure to elevate your heart rate and provides an intensive leg and glutes workout. Although these sports can involve a slow progression, the mastery of the skills involved is a crusher workout, no matter what pace you are moving at. Still, beginners should probably avoid going on cold days when the slow pace will make them much colder, especially if they’re learning to snowboard, which always involves a lot of falling.
Cross Country Skiing
Those looking for an aerobic, full-body workout that will get them outside in the winter should turn to cross country skiing. This type of skiing, which is slower paced than the downhill variety, is also easier to learn – just about anyone can jump on a pair of cross country skis and be quickly moving along within the first hour. Furthermore, cross country ski rentals are much cheaper then alpine skis and although some groomed cross country ski areas require a pass, it is also possible to head to the free trails that can be found in the woods. This makes cross country skiing a great choice for those on a budget.
Snowshoeing is another great way to get onto some backwoods trails in the winter. This activity is easy to learn, which makes it a great choice for a family vacation. For those looking for more of a workout, use snowshoes to explore terrain covered in unbroken snow or go for a run over snow packed trails. Snowshoes are cheap to rent in most mountain towns.
Ice Skating and Hockey
Ice skating rinks are everywhere, making this a wonderful way to stay in shape all winter long wherever you live. Head to the rink when it isn’t so crowded and try to elevate your heart rate by skating as quickly as you can for as long as you can. Skating backward is another great workout. For the more experienced skater, many rinks have intramural hockey teams that practice and play games all winter long. However you decide to skate though, you can be sure to reap huge benefits to both your cardio and your leg muscles.
Although navigating a hill on a sled requires some skill, the real workout with sledding is the hike back up the hill. Sledding, therefore, offers a great way to keep your kids active in the winter without them ever knowing. To get a run in as well, start a snowball fight!
Those who want to stay in shape during the winter but can’t be motivated to go to the store, let alone go for a run, should think about signing up for a weekly class that takes place over the winter months. A class like this, where other people are holding you accountable, can be a great way to find motivation where there would otherwise be none.
Hit the Gym
The simplest answer to staying in shape when it feels too cold to go outside is, of course, hitting the gym. As much as I encourage you to brave the cold, chilly weather not for everyone, and even for the thick-skinned, some temperatures are just too cold. Buy a six-month membership, so that you’re ready to head back outside when the flowers begin to bloom again.