Winter can be a tough time to get outside to exercise and it is easy to spend most of the long, dark days indoors, both working and working out. The air is cold, the ground is slippery and it is dark, both before and after work. But with proper preparation, as well as picking the right outdoor activities, you can enjoy a few outdoor workouts each week.
To keep your cardio going through the winter, try snowshoeing. If you haven’t done it before, sign up for a lesson or two to learn the basics and then spend your weekends exploring trails in the bright snow. Snowshoeing is a great substitute for hiking, and the smaller, running snowshoes will help you get out for your weekend runs on the snowiest and coldest of days. Here in Vancouver we actually have snowshoe races throughout the winter. Think of these events like running a 5km or 10km race, except up in the mountains. Nothing makes your lungs burn more than getting your heart rate up in the cold, alpine air. You are going to need to dress a little differently when you are snowshoeing vs running so make sure you invest in some warm, moisture wicking gear, like these pants. You can also try merino wool, which is all I wear while exercising in the snow, as it keeps you warm and dry.
If you are a cyclist through the summer and you want to make sure you keep your legs strong throughout the winter months, as well as not lose any of your cardiovascular endurance, get out on a pair of skate skis. If you ask any cyclist in the spring how they kept themselves fit through the winter, they will swear by skate skiing. Skate skiing, which is a cross between classic cross country skiing and skating, is one of the best full body workouts you can do, as you are using your legs and your upper body the entire time. And anytime you combine both upper and lower body in a cardio workout, your heart will be pumping, which equates to mega calories burned. Many bike shops offer free clinics for their customers where they provide you with the gear as well as lessons. This can be a great way to learn a new skill, meet new people and keep fit. And I guarantee your abs will ache the next day from all of the laughing you will do as you slide like bambi down the hills. You can get away with wearing what you would wear for a cold run, but throw on one extra layer, like a warm jacket or vest. And don’t forget a good pair of gloves.
If you aren’t ready to bear the outdoors and want to stick with training indoors, keep it exciting by trying something new. Maybe you try a yoga class this winter. Hot yoga is a great way to warm up on a cold day, while at the same time improving your strength and flexibility. Or join a new fitness class at your gym. Surrounding yourself with positive energy will help boost low energy that is common during this time. Make sure you pack a change of clothes, especially a fresh sports bra, to wear home. Never leave the gym in sweaty gear in the winter.
Whatever you do, do not allow these next few dark months to keep you away from being active. Pick a new activity or two and invest in a few warm pieces and winter may just become your favourite time to get active.