The leaves have fallen, sweaters are back in style, daylight is limited, and rain is in the forecast. Fall is here and winter is on its way.
While evening walks other active outdoor excursions may be more inviting during the summer, the onset of chillier months does not mean you have to hibernate. Getting a regular dose of exercise in the fresh air isn’t only good for your heart- it may also chase away the winter blues. To maintain your fitness level this winter, dress for the weather, exercise with a friend, and be creative.
Dress for success
Your time spent outside in the cool temperatures will be more pleasurable if you dress properly. Layering is a great way to stay warm and dry when braving the winter weather. Wear a layer of synthetic fabric next to your skin, such as polypropylene (thermal underwear). Stay away from cotton as it absorbs moisture and dries slowly, making you feel damp and cold once you start to sweat. Fleece makes a great insulating layer. Top off your insulating layer with thin waterproof or windproof layer. Warm socks, gloves, and a toque are also essential to keep warm.
Unless you can squeeze in a mid-day walk during your lunch break, the short winter days means some of your outdoor activity will be in the dark. It is important to be seen when walking, running, or cycling at night. Reflective clothing and flashing lights are a great way to stay visible at night. Reflective vests and lights can be found at most bike shops and running shoe stores.
Make it a date
Plan to meet up with a friend, family member, or a four-legged friend for a walk or run. You will be less likely to miss a workout, and the exercise will be more enjoyable. Having an exercise partner will help you leave your warm and comfortable house to brave the outdoors.
Try something new
The winter presents a variety of opportunities for outdoor exercise. The local mountains, such as Hemlock, Cypress and Manning Park offer a range of snow sports to try. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are great cardiovascular workouts. Downhill skiing and snowboarding will challenge your leg muscles. Tobogganing is also a great workout- especially when you have to haul your kids up the hill. If snow falls in the valley, go sledding or build a snowman with your family. If nothing else, shoveling your driveway is a sure way to work up a sweat.
Have an indoor alternative
Okay, sometimes trading a cup of hot cocoa by the fireplace for a sweat session in the stinging wind is a bit unrealistic. It is wise to have an indoor alternative during the winter months. Join a gym, register in a group fitness class, or start a home exercise program to keep fit, and dry, during the winter months.
While we have said farewell to our short sleeves and warm evenings, we don’t have to say good-bye to our fitness. To keep fit during the long months ahead, dress appropriately, find a workout buddy, and play in the snow!
Tanja Shaw is a Kinesiologist and owner of Ascend Fitness Coaching. In her own private training studio, Tanja and the Ascend Fitness Team helps others achieve better health and fitness with Ascend Fitness Boot Camp, Small Group Personal Training and Private Training. For more fitness tips go to www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.