Winter is fast approaching, and when the days start getting colder and darker, the urge to hibernate can be strong. But don’t let cold weather hamper your workout efforts.
It’s important that we stay active all year, not just during the months we want to hit the beach. Most of us tend to eat more high-carb and comfort foods when the temperature drops. By counteracting this with exercise, we can indulge in the occasional treat, without piling on the pounds.
Sticking to a fitness regiment throughout autumn and winter will also help you beat seasonal blues. And, when warmer weather returns, you will be bikini-ready at a moment’s notice.
These 10 winter fitness tips will help you to stay in shape throughout winter and beyond.
1. Run against the wind
When running to improve muscle strength, run against the wind rather than with it. Doing so will take considerably more effort than running with the wind, so do this at the beginning of your workout when you have more energy. It will feel easier then, and you will be able to put more effort into your run.
Don’t fight the wind. Lean into it and go at a manageable pace. During hot weather, do the reverse, so the wind cools you at the end of your workout.
2. Check your running shoes
Studies carried out in the US, and the UK found that as the temperature drops, our running shoe’s ability to absorb shock decreases. This is due to the shoes’ EVA foam padding stiffening when subjected to low temperatures. In this situation, shoes become less flexible, and a smaller more localized area of our foot comes in contact with our shoes. This is comparable to running on a harder surface.
With less shock absorption, the risk of injury increases. It will also force you to work harder, which is demotivating. Choosing shoes with a soft mid-sole will help prevent this, as will buying new shoes when the EVA foam starts to wear. Check your shoes often and discard them when the padded insole starts to look worn.
3. Exercise Streaks
Streaking is popular with runners, but it can be a part of any fitness activity. Using running as an example, set yourself a goal to run at least 1 mile a day for 30 days, and commit to it. If running isn’t your thing, cycle, row, use an elliptical machine or do any other form of exercise.
How about doing 50 Push-Ups a day, or undertaking a fitness program such as P90X3, following it through to the end without skipping a day? The idea is that by doing your chosen activity for 30 days, it will become a habit.
4. Make a bet
Make a bet with a friend that you will log X number of miles, or spend X minutes per week exercising. You will find this to be highly motivating, and it’s a win-win situation for all.
If you meet your goals, your friend has to make a donation to your chosen charity. If you fail, you must donate to the charity of their choice.
5. Revel in the cooler weather
The downside of cold weather exercise is that it can be difficult to stay motivated if you exercise outdoors.
The upside is that exercise feels easier when the temperature is lower. This means you can work harder and so get better results.
6. Have a sauna
Treat yourself to a warming sauna after a tough outdoor workout. It may even make you fitter.
According to research conducted at the University of Otago in New Zealand, people who had a daily sauna after their workout for three weeks increased the distance they could run.
7. Keep your hands cool
Wearing the right clothing will make your workouts more comfortable, whatever the time of year. This includes wearing layers made of fabric that wicks sweat away from your skin.
Wearing gloves may seem like a good idea when it’s cold out, but this is not the case. As we heat up, our muscles become tired. Gloves reduce heat loss through the palms of our hands, and our palms are an important avenue for cooling us down.
Studies have shown that exercisers with cold hands can work out for twice as long as those with hot hands. If it’s really cold outdoors, wear gloves until your hands warm up, then remove them to facilitate cooling.
8. Increased calorie burning
The lower the temperature, the more calories you will burn.
During hot weather, we sweat a lot when exercising. This gives the impression that we are working hard, but it’s internal heat production that burns calories.
Cooler temperatures also activate levels of metabolism-boosting brown body fat.
9. Exercise in the morning
Studies have shown that people are more likely to stick with an exercise program if they work out early in the day.
If you’re not a morning person, sleep in your workout gear. Set your alarm clock and leave it on the other side of the room so you have to get up to switch it off. Leave your running shoes next to it. Once you are up, all you will have to do is put your shoes on and hit the street or jump on your treadmill.
10. Don’t work out if you’re ill
Winter colds and bugs can derail even the most dedicated exercise plan. If your symptoms are mild and isolated to above the neck – think sneezing or a slight headache – you should be fine to exercise. If on the other hand, you have a fever or chills, a severe cough, or aches and pains, you will be better off resting.
It is even best to forgo exercise if you have a head cold. Your body’s immune system will be trying to fight it, and exercising will take resources away from that. Listen to your body. If it is telling you it needs to rest, rest.
If you just can’t bring yourself to exercise outdoors, there are plenty of awesome winter workouts that can be done indoors. The sooner you start the better. I work out to fitness DVDs year round and find them particularly convenient when the temperature drop. Click this link to read about some of my favorite home fitness DVDs.