It’s winter, with its shortened daylight, cooler temperatures, and sometimes unmanageable weather, finding the right time or motivation to get in a workout can be tough. Despite these unavoidable challenges the colder season brings, there are plenty of ways to stay fit—and maybe even get fitter—this winter. Makenzie Jones provides some suggestions.
Though it may not be the first thing you want to do, it is important to spend time outside; sun exposure is an important component to health but is often overlooked. Vitamin D comes largely from the sun and helps fight depression, as well as aids calcium in proper bone development. When people joke about loving summer sun so much that winter gets them down, it is more than a joke; it is a proven fact. Exercise in general increases blood flow, improving immunity to help fight off those cold-weather illnesses and flu season. Also lowering effects of depression, exercise increases serotonin levels.
When working outside in the cold weather, it is important to dress accordingly. Dallas Karr, Wellness Graduate Assistant at Lipscomb University Campus Recreation and certified personal trainer offers three safety tips:
Check the wind-chill index to give you a more accurate idea of how to prepare rather than just looking at the temperature.
Wear thick and/or wind-wicking clothing to keep you warm, especially as your body warms up and begins to sweat.
If you have asthma or a breathing condition, make sure to have your inhaler handy, as cold weather makes breathing more difficult to begin with.
If going for a run on a cold, windy day, try to run into the wind first, so your body will warm up going harder at the start. When you turn around and are starting to sweat, you will not be facing the colder wind, increasing your risk for frost bite or simply being colder. In the snow, wind, ice, and cold, it is not as important to stress about speed, but rather your health and safety. These factors actually increase the challenge and intensity of your workout, giving you more work in a shorter time. If you are feeling festive, you could even do some snow sprints.
Even fun snow activities can provide a good workout! Having a snowball fight, building a snowman, collecting wood for a fire, hiking, “dashing through the snow,” and sledding (especially if you are walking/jogging back up the hill) can all wear you out while you have fun. More organized activities like cross country skiing, snow shoeing, and ice skating are also great options.
Finding a friend to bear the elements with can make any workout, indoor or outdoor, easier to look forward to and more enjoyable in the process. Other goals, like I tell myself how much better that hot coffee and oatmeal will taste when I’m done, are great ways to make cold-weather workouts fun. There are many seasonal races available, too, such as the Hot Chocolate 15k/5k, which is coming back to Nashville on February 17th, 2018.
However, it is important to remember to be flexible with what time and weather allow for your own sanity and safety. Indoor workouts are a more abundant option than may first appear.
Gyms are of course an option, full of treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, and weights, but you don’t have to have a gym membership; doing workouts on your own can save time and money, as well as give you the freedom of being in your own space. Some great DIY activities are plyometrics such as burpees, jumping jacks, and mountain climbers; running the stairs; and jump roping.
These are my go-to activities when I don’t want to face the weather! I also pop a Just Dance game in the Wii for some fun fitness. If you don’t want to make your own routine, there are phone apps, YouTube videos, and websites with workouts to try. Active TV viewing is another thing you can do at home while on your own cardo machine or doing simple exercises. Most gyms have TVs for while you work out.
Many local schools, gyms, and community centers offer rec league sports and group classes to give you connection and cardio. Try out a Zumba class at Lipscomb with Dallas, visit Hot Yoga of East Nashville, or find a YMCA rec basketball team. Why not get some cardio with your Christmas shopping and mall walk with a friend?
Then you may not even need to spend money to get the benefits of the experience. Indoor pools will be heated and can give you yet another place to dive into activity, either alone or in a class. If you really want to embrace the celebrations of the season, Dallas also suggests ice skating at the Centennial Sportsplex. This is not only enjoyable, but it gives the muscles and balance that don’t typically get challenged a good workout!
Don’t let the weather keep you from staying fit over the winter. Take on the challenge with new ways to improve your health!