Bringing Wellness Full Circle

Cold Weather Workouts?

If you are anything like me, winter months make you want to stay home and not do a thing…  The days are short, it’s cold out there, and all I want to do is my nice, warm bed.  And even though winter does offer a variety of outdoor activities like skiing, snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing, it just isn’t my thing…. So I am indoors (or shivering outdoors).  The two keys to staying motivated during the winter for me is (1) to make it as easy as possible to do my workouts and, (2) Ito recognize when I am starting to get bored with my workouts and make a change before I really lose interest.

The following suggestions will give you some ideas for making winter exercise more comfortable and/or interesting. If you’re exercising in the morning and find it hard to force yourself out of that nice, warm bed, put your workout clothes in the dryer for a few minutes before you exercise. It’s often harder to get warmed up when it’s cold outside, even if you’re exercising indoors, and putting on clothes fresh from the dryer is just one way to get your body warm. Another thing: when it’s cold, your muscles can get extra tight which makes exercise uncomfortable and leaves you more susceptible to injuries. In the warmer months, you may be able to get away with shorter warm ups but, when it’s cold, you may find you need a little extra time to get the blood flowing:

Try dynamic warm ups. Don’t waste time with static stretches but, instead, focus on doing activities to get your body ready for the coming workout. If you’re walking or running, start with a brisk walk and stay at that pace until you start to feel warmer. Gradually increase your pace and give your body extra time to get the blood flowing.

Get warm before you head out. If you’re exercising outside try warming up inside before heading out the door. It’s much easier to face cold temps when your body is already warm. Try walking or jogging around the house, going up and down the stairs or use a cardio machine if you have one. Just don’t get too sweaty before you go or you’ll get cold.

Take a hot shower. If it’s really cold outside or you just need a gentler transition, you might even try a quick shower to wake you up and get you warm before your workout.

Start easy. If you’re really reluctant to get moving, start your workout with something easy. Giving yourself a transition from bed to workout can make exercise much more appealing.

If you’re utterly against exercise in cold temperatures (as I am), you can still get outside occasionally for quick workouts without being too miserable. If you stay inside all winter, you’ll eventually get bored and forget that there really is a world out there, even if it’s cold. Getting out, even if it’s just for a few minutes, can be rejuvenating and refreshing – just what you need to keep going until spring.

Alternate going in and out. Start your workout inside with a nice long warm up, then head out for a 3-5 minute walk or run. Come back for another 5-10 minutes until you’re warm again and then continue alternating for a dynamic workout.

Go half and half. Another option is to do half your workout outside and then finish up inside. The great thing about this is that you get inside before you really start sweating – sweating when it’s cold is not only uncomfortable, it could lead to hypothermia if you’re out for long periods of time.

End your workout outside. A great way to burn extra calories and add something new to your winter workouts is to save 5 minutes at the end of your workout for an outdoor sprint. Head out and walk or run as fast as you can for 5 minutes.

Shovel some snow. If you’re staring out at several inches or feet of snow, exercising may not be safe. Shoveling snow is an excellent whole body workout and a great warm up for more structured (and indoor) exercise. If you exercise outside, you hopefully know the proper way to dress to stay warm. But, if you’re still experimenting with just how much to wear, you may need some ideas for where to start. How you dress can make the difference between misery and just generally being uncomfortable: focus on three layers – the base layer with thin fabrics like silk or wool, a mid layer like fleece to keep you insulated and an outer layer like a wind jacket to protect you from the elements. Layering works well with cold temps because it helps you stay warm and provides an easy way to regulate your temperature – if you get too hot, just unzip or remove a layer. And don’t forget the hat and gloves!

If you’re bound and determined to exercise inside for the duration of winter (as I’m often tempted to do), you may find yourself getting bored with the same old workouts. Even the variety of machines and activities at the gym can get old when you do them over and over. To keep yourself interested, try mixing up your workouts and trying some new ideas:

Mix and Match your Cardio. If you tend to do the same machines all the time, try a cardio medley. Choose 5 different machines and spend 5 or more minutes on each. Or choose 3 machines and hit each for 15 minutes. Mixing things up can make your workouts seem shorter and more interesting.

Mix and Match your Strength Training. If you’ve been doing the same old routine for awhile, try mixing things up by using different types of resistance. Try doing one exercise on a machine (e.g., a chest press) and then an exercise for the same muscle group with the cables or a resistance band (e.g., crossover chest flies). Or, start at the end of your workout and work your way backwards. Just changing the order of the exercise can keep things interesting.

Mix and Match Cardio and Strength. Another way to perk up is to combine cardio and strength in a circuit. Try 5 minutes on the treadmill and then do a minute of squats before a few minutes on the elliptical, etc. If you’re finding it particularly difficult to get up and do your workout, having something to look forward to may just get you moving. It’s tough to look forward to a workout when it’s cold and dark, but having something nice waiting at the end of your workout can make it all better:

Give yourself an extra ten minutes. At the end of your workout, use that extra time to sit in the hot tub, take an extra long shower, pick up some coffee from your favorite establishment, stretch, nap or whatever makes you feel good. Reward yourself every week. At the end of each week, plan something fun you’ll do if you’ve completed all your workouts. A movie, a massage, a shopping trip, an afternoon in front of the fire, etc.

Reward yourself every month. Plan bigger rewards for completing all your workouts in one month. A weekend trip, a new pair of running shoes, a day at the spa…choose something that makes you smile when you think about it and get moving. Reward yourself at the end of winter. Another way to stay motivated is to plan something for the end of winter, like a vacation. Knowing you have a vacation to look forward to will motivate you to stay in shape so you’re strong and ready for your trip.

Do you need some extra motivation to stick to your exercise program in the winter?  Or any time? J Try these tactics:

Ask someone to be your exercise buddy — many people agree that having someone to exercise with helps keep them going.

Listen to recorded books or music while you do endurance activities.

Set a goal and reward yourself when you reach it. For example, treat yourself to a massage or a manicure when you’ve reached a exercise milestone, like walking a certain distance.

Give yourself physical activity homework assignments for the next day or the next week.

Think of your exercise sessions as appointments and mark them on your calendar.

Keep a record of what you do and the progress you make. Understand that although there will be times when you don’t show rapid progress, you are still benefiting from your activities. Plan ahead for travel, bad weather, and house guests. For example, an exercise video enables you to exercise indoors when the weather is bad.


“Success is the sum of small efforts,

repeated day in and day out.”

Robert Collier



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