A little creativity is needed to stay active in the winter. Short days, numerous layers of clothing, and stomach-filling holiday meals don’t exactly inspire an after-work run, bike ride, or weekend kayak trip. But, instead of hibernating when the temperatures drop and the sun sets before you get home, use the season to expand the ways you stay active and mix up your workout routine.
The benefits of being active in winter are numerous, and you’ll have a head start while everyone else is scrambling this spring to get into beach shape. In case you need a few ideas to get started, below are eight tips that will help get you out and keep you active this winter.
1. Run During lunch
As winter days get shorter, take advantage of your midday break for lunch and fit in a quick run. It’s usually the warmest time of day and safer than running at night. If you time it right, you can easily take 30 minutes and run a couple miles, and still have time to grab a bite or protein shake afterward. It might also give you a much-needed energy boost to power through the rest of the day.
2. Set up a Home Gym
You can get a surprisingly strong workout in a small space at home. Not much room is needed to knock out a few sets of pushups, dips, or crunches that will leave you feeling stronger and energized. Expanding the workout is also easy. Medicine balls and exercise bands are an inexpensive way throw a bit of variety into the workout.
3. Hit the Pool
We usually associate time at the pool with hot summer days, when we relax while the kids splash around to cool off. However, if you haven’t hit the pool for a workout in a while, you might be surprised at how taxing it is. It may take some time to comfortably do a few laps, but the strength and cardio gains are worthwhile. Find a local recreation center or gym with an indoor pool for an invigorating workout, and experiment with different strokes and techniques to find out what works for you.
4. Take the Stairs
If you have stairs at your workplace or apartment, it won’t take more than 5 or 10 minutes and a few flights of stairs to get some good exercise. It will help clear your mind when you’re stuck on a project, provide some quick relief from the computer screen, and get the blood flowing. A jaunt up a few flights of stairs is a surprisingly easy and efficient way to burn a few calories and build leg strength for your next hiking trip.
5. Protect the Extremities and Layer Up
When you do brave the cold and head out for a run, bike ride, or any other outdoor activity, make sure your hands and head are covered. Heat loss happens quickest in these areas, and the wind robs you of heat as well. A good pair of running gloves will make all the difference on your next cold-weather run.
Also, dress in layers. The first layer should be a moisture-wicking material that has little or no cotton. For your top layer, wear something water- and wind-resistant that you can remove easily if you begin to get too hot.
6. Take a Class
Winter is the perfect time to join a class. There are different workout groups popping up everywhere, which will give you an extremely beneficial workout while you’re protected from the elements. Many people find that they’re more motivated during group workout and push themselves further than when they exercise alone. Plus, it’s a fun way to meet new people. Whether it’s yoga, Pilates, or Pure Barre, you can get a surprisingly strong workout and your body will feel better than ever.
7. Try a New Sport
There are many indoor sports that you have probably forgotten about, and winter is the perfect time to pick up a new one or revisit one you haven’t played lately. Your local YMCA or recreation center should have a multi-use court that can be used for basketball, volleyball, or badminton. If you’re ultra-competitive and usually play tennis, a game of squash may emerge as your new favorite winter activity. If you’ve ever wanted to try climbing, visit your local indoor climbing gym and try some bouldering or roped climbing. It’s a great workout, and you’ll get some of the knowledge and skills needed to climb outdoors.
8. Warm up and Cool Down
While a proper warm-up and cool-down period is a major component of a complete workout, this is even truer in winter. You’re risking an injury if you run in cold weather without getting your body warmed up first.
A correct cool down in winter is important as well. You don’t want to go for a cold-temperature run and quickly enter the house. Doing so will take your breath away. Give your body time to adjust by staying outdoors and walking with your layers still on for 5-10 minutes. Then, remove one layer at a time so your body temperature can safely adjust.
Written by Hap Pruitt for Matcha in partnership with BCBS of AL.