5 Outdoor Exercise Tips for Winter
Sure, sipping hot chocolate in front of the fire seems like the ultimate winter activity, but it will feel even better after some revitalizing outdoor exercise. That’s right—just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you have to stop having fun outside.
As you are probably aware, it can be difficult to remain motivated to workout when the frigid weather hits. Most of us just want to curl up in the couch with a good book and a furry creature at out feet. But, more so than any other season, it is paramount to continue to enjoy exercise through the winter.
If we remain physically stagnant and consume only rich foods during the cold months, health and weight can quickly become compromised, leading to a downward spiral in diet and fitness that will be an elephant to address in the new year. This winter, keep things fun, interesting and safe to stay motivated and physically fit, no matter what the weather.
Here are a handful of tips to keep you exercising through the winter:
Warm up. First things first, make sure you’re warm before you venture into the chilly winter wonderland. By doing some sit-ups, push-ups, planks, burpees, mountain climbers or similar exercises for 3 to 5 minutes before going outside, you are able to raise your core temperature so that the cold doesn’t feel so shocking. It also increases blood flow to your muscles to prepare them for activity. Warming-up is important any time of year, but the repercussions of not warming up in the winter are a bit more severe and immediate. A lot more can go wrong when your muscle are rigid and stiff in the cold. For the sake of your body and your comfort, always do a quick warm-up.
Layer smart. You don’t need a bunch of fancy clothes to workout outside in the winter. You just need to be smarter about how you layer your clothes. Start with a wool base layer to help mitigate moisture created through sweat. Then, add on a synthetic mid-layer to insulate like a fleece. You could even wear a down sweater or vest (along with or instead of the fleece), depending on the temperature and wind chill. Lastly, top everything with a outer shell to protect from wind chill and precipitation. When it is truly cold outside, this layering system will keep you toasty and comfortable, even without a huge parka. Wearing a face mask can help you avoid the pain of piercing cold air in your lungs. Oh, and don’t forget gloves and a hat!
Wear bright colors. If you like to run, bike or walk your dog on the road, it’s important to take extra safety precautions in the winter. Since it remains darker for longer during the winter months, keep clothing bright and in contrast to your environment to ensure high visibility. It’s important cars see you well ahead of time so that they have plenty of time to react on roads of questionable icy conditions.
Know your limits. If you go out in 0 degrees Fahrenheit weather and exhaust yourself on a long run, you are putting yourself at higher risk for cold weather afflictions like frostbite. You know what you can handle. You know where your health and fitness levels are. Be realistic. If you go outside and it just feels too treacherous, take the day off. It’s better to keep yourself healthy than to push through a run during an ice storm. Just make sure you are being honest with yourself and not lazy.
Change up your routine. If your cycling/running routine just doesn’t appeal to you during the winter, let your workout evolve with the season. Just as one can eat seasonally, exercise can be a seasonal endeavor as well. Activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking or mountain biking on a fat bike (on packed snow) can work new muscle groups and encourage you to become fitter for your favorite activities in the spring.
Of course, simply heading to the gym is an option, but being outside has so many benefits. Why would you want to spend even more time indoors when you could be breathing fresh, crisp air? What sort of exercise will you be doing this winter?