Once the snow starts flying, it can be harder to get enthusiastic about going outside to exercise. It’s dark before you get home from work, and the big temptation is how cozy it is inside. There’s no question it requires a little more planning than pulling on a t-shirt and shorts, but there’s no better feeling than staying inspired and coming into the spring season fit and healthy. Here are five good ways to make the most of winter fitness.
Set a Short-Term Goal: Boost your motivation by setting a spring goal that requires training. It’s especially helpful on those days when you just want to roll over and stay under the warm covers. Ask a friend or family member to join you or hold you accountable. In January, register for a fun 10 km run or a charitable walk in April or May. Then work toward showing up on the start line in the best shape. If you like things a bit messy and extreme, the spring is the best time for “tough mudder” runs or duathlons. Work toward your goal by hitting the snowy trails, and set up a stationary bike at home.
Curb the Cravings: Everyone feels a bit hungrier in the winter. If exercising outdoors, a lot of calories can get burned. Just doing 30 minutes of snow shovelling burns almost 200 calories (with proper form, it’s great for the core and cardio). When you head out on fat bikes for a day of adventure on waterfront trails or go downhill skiing, it’s vital to have the right kind of fuel. Low carb, high protein snacks are the best to moderate blood sugar levels. Hardboiled eggs, beef jerky, nuts or bars like GoodTo Go are ideal for keeping in a pocket for when energy levels are flagging, and you need something quick to keep you going.
Boost Your Mood: If you struggle to keep your spirits up because of a lack of light, try to get outside to work out on bright or sunny mornings for 30 minutes to an hour. You might have to tuck in at night a bit earlier (like that's difficult when it gets dark so early). Exposure to morning light boosts serotonin levels, the feel-good hormone. Go for a walk in a local park, run on side streets away from the slush and traffic. Make time to reward yourself with a nut-milk latte or hot chocolate at a local cafe on your way home.
Dress for Success: A lot of light layers is the ideal way to dress for winter sports and is essential for an afternoon on the cross-country ski trails, snowshoeing (which doubles the calorie burn of walking), or spending an evening ice skating. The base layer is first and should be lightweight, warm, and quick-drying or wick-away, so if you work up a sweat, your clothes won’t be soaking. The middle layer is for extra warmth—leggings, a sweatshirt or sweater. The top layer is windbreaking and lightweight, like a jacket or ski pants. Make it light enough that if temperatures rise, you can take it off and store in a backpack. Don’t forget warm, lightweight gloves and a hat. If possible, bring a change of clothes to keep you warm on the ride home.
Check the Weather: When there’s a winter storm warning, or it’s the day after an ice storm, going outside to exercise can be too treacherous, particularly if sidewalks and streets aren’t clear. That’s the time for Plan B. Visit a local gym for the day and hit the pool or try a new class fitness class, and don’t forget to get a little extra warmth in the steam room or hot tub. Roll out the yoga mat at home and find along with a routine on YouTube. Or use inclement weather as a good reason to have a day of rest.
Make this the winter you kick every last excuse to the curb. Even an hour running around the yard in a snowball fight with your kids will burn calories and lift spirits. Get a goal, dress right, fuel up, and make the most of winter fitness fun!