When the weather takes a turn for the worse, do your workouts follow? It is tempting -- okay, it’s easy -- to let your fitness priorities take a backseat when the season’s first chill or snow arrives. However, your body isn’t going to get fit by itself -- even if the gray skies and falling temperatures have you cuddled up by the fire sipping a hot toddy.
What’s a health-conscious Baby Boomer to do? Brave the elements and discover that winter workouts are fun, exhilarating, and possibly even better at getting you in shape than fair weather exercise!
Some wintry ideas for you to choose from:
In addition to curling up with a good book and enjoying the snow scene outside your window, there are a variety of outdoor activities that --if you are properly prepared -- will give you a new appreciation of winter weather.
Walking. . . with Yak Tracks: Even though snow and ice can make walking a treacherous ordeal in the winter, you can still get out and enjoy the invigorating air and snow-covered beauty. Invest in a pair of Yak Tracks (around $20) and you will have the ability to trek around your neighborhood or groomed trails through the parks or woods. Yak Tracks are rubber and coil covers that go on the bottom of your shoes, giving you traction that regular shoes can’t deliver. Check out this video to learn how to use Yak Tracks.
Snowshoeing: Easier than cross country or downhill skiing, snowshoes can take you wherever you want to explore. Unlike Yak Tracks, which are ideal for packed snow surfaces, snowshoes allow you to navigate through powder or deep snow, uphill or downhill, slow speed or even running. Much like hiking with walking poles, snowshoeing with ski poles that have baskets on the bottom gives you “four-wheel drive” and an awesome arm workout. For more information on snowshoeing, be sure to read Snowshoeing for Winter Fitness.
Cross country skiing: If you are looking for a full-body workout, cross country skiing is it. Not only do you get to glide along beautiful snow covered terrain, you also get to challenge your arms, legs and core muscles. Best yet, if the thought of high-speed downhill skiing terrifies you, you’ll love the self-pacing of cross country. Visit the Cross Country Ski Areas Association for information on everything you could ever want to know about cross country skiing.
Downhill skiing: Definitely more for the brave-hearted, downhill skiing is a great leg and core workout. Though it may seem like you simply zip down the slope, your muscles must stay engaged to keep you from careening into a tree or wiping out in a drift. To suit the many different levels of experience and fitness levels, most ski resorts have beginning and experienced slopes. And for your safety and for the safety of others, if you are new to skiing, get lessons before you get on the ski lift.
Regardless of what type of winter activity you choose, be sure to do your research before heading out. Check with your local parks and recreation department for guides and other useful information on nearby winter activities. You can also get information on trails in your area -- or in areas you plan to visit -- on websites like Trails.com.
If you happen to be in the Bozeman, Montana area, the Bozeman Passage website, has an interactive guide of over 100 trails of the 2,600 miles throughout the gorgeous Gallatin Valley.
For Michele’s tips on staying warm while outdoors,
How to stay warm
Most people detest outdoor activity in the winter because they have never had the opportunity to enjoy it properly dressed. The two main things you want to achieve in dressing for cold weather workouts is to stay warm and stay dry. With the availability of winter-ready sports clothing, you have no reason not to get fit outdoors.
The key is to layer your clothing as opposed to bundling up. Yes, you can slip on your thick floor-length coat before you head out, but if you are going to be moving, it is going to restrict your arms and even potentially put you at risk of falling because of its unbalancing bulk. Besides, once you get moving, you are going to warm right up.
To stay warm and unrestricted, layer your clothing -- you can strip layers as you get more into your workout or put them back on if the weather turns on you. If it’s cloudy and there is a chance for rain or snow, be sure your top layer is a waterproof shell. Also, take advantage of pocket, hand or feet warmers (air-activated packets of varying sizes that heat up and stay warm for eight hours or more). Here is an article with more information on clothing designed to keep you warm.
Another important way to stay warm (and safe) is to make sure you don’t head out into the cold on an empty stomach. Not only does your body temperature lower when you are hungry, you could end up feeling woozy from low blood sugar. Eat a balanced meal an hour before your workout so you are well-fueled. Additionally, keep in mind that hydration is just as important in the winter as it is during warm weather -- get a minimum of eight (8-ounce) glasses of fluid daily.
Don’t let the cold weather keep you indoors this winter. Get outside and experience the mind and body benefits of winter workouts.
By Michele Thompson, MS
Channel Editor, SheKnows.com
Food Editor, ChefMom.com