Winter is the right season to slow down our lives and build in more time for rest and quiet. Unfortunately, the holiday season can add so many extra calories that it is the one time of year when you want to be sure to maintain your exercise schedule (if you have one) or start a modest one (if you don’t). Here are a few tips for winter fitness to keep you going whether you exercise indoors or outdoors.
There’s no reason to stop exercising outdoors just because of winter, but make sure you take these extra precautions:
- Extremities: If you live in a winter climate, remember to protect your hands, feet, and head from the cold.
- Layers: Dress in layers as if it were 20 degrees warmer than it is. You will warm up as you exercise. Remove a layer as soon as you begin sweating. When you stop sweating, put it back on.
- Be reflective: To make you more visible to motorists, wear reflective strips or a flashing light on your jacket, hat, arms, or shoes when you go out for a walk, run, or bike.
- Warm up: add an extra 5 minutes to your warm-up time to get cold muscles ready for the cold air.
- Watch out: beware of icy roads and driveway patches.
- Gym: if you already have a gym routine, keep it up. If not, here are some activities you can do at home (or even in the office) with little or no special equipment:
- Yoga & Pilates: look up an online guide that fits your experience level. YogaTV.Net has some videos for every level. YouTube is also a great resource for free instruction videos. Try searching “beginner yoga” or “15-minute yoga” to find a routine that works for you. When you find one you like, bookmark it, and practice it twice a day.
- Housecleaning & gardening: these underrated forms of exercise can be quite aerobic and strength building when done vigorously. Take care not to overdo it if you have been inactive. Stretch to warm your muscles before you start.
- Wii Fit and Wii Sports: if you have a Wii or other movement game, use it. Some programs allow you to tailor your workout and then save it. Consider it like a gym appointment and set a twice-a-week workout schedule on your cell phone. This is also a perfect group activity for houseguests—and their kids.
- Free weights: if you have them, spend 10 minutes three times a day doing a series of arm and shoulder routines like this Lower Shoulder Matrix on YouTube. If you haven’t done these before, start with light weights that make you feel fatigue after about 10 reps. (You can also just use the weight of your arms to start.) Pay attention to form. Modify these workouts according to your experience level.
- Sit-ups: No special equipment needed for these. If you are just starting out, try crunches (raising only the shoulders off the ground), in sets of 10, 25, or 50, depending on your ability level. Perform three sets. Repeat every three hours (set your cell phone to remind you.)
- Push-ups: These classics still are a great full body workout. If you are new to them, try modified knee push-ups, or against a raised bench or wall. Graduate from wall push-up to bench push-up to knee push-up to regular push-up as each level becomes easier. Start with sets of 5, 10, or 15, depending on your ability level. Perform three sets. Repeat every three hours (set your cell phone to remind you.)
Walking is, of course, the premier accessible exercise and is easy to do with a group, say, after a large holiday meal. It is great for digestion and conversation. If weather is truly not permitting, try a walk in a large indoor space such as a mall. Try to get in 20-30 minutes of moderate-paced walking each day.
Always check with your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise regime.
- Pia Hinckle