If the prospect of getting outside for a workout on a cold winter day seems less than appealing, don't worry—you're not alone. Even the most adventurous fitness buffs have days when they'd rather toss another log on the fire and give in to a warm mug of hot chocolate. But with a little preparation, you can shake off the winter frost and enjoy a vigorous and stimulating outdoor workout.
The benefits of outdoor exercise are tangible. Outdoor activity helps the brain produce serotonin, a natural mood booster. It has been shown that outdoor exercise helps to combat the effects of seasonal affective disorder, which can make us feel moody and lethargic from being cooped up inside during the winter months. Winter exercise also burns more calories due the extra exertion it takes to get your body going in the cold.
Follow these simple tips to keep fit and shed the winter blues with regular outdoor winter workouts.
Take some time. Your body needs more time to acclimate to the elements when the weather is cold. Give yourself a few extra minutes to warm up, and don't expect to immediately start exercising at your usual warm-weather pace. Once your body does adjust to the temps, you'll have no trouble getting the most out of your workout.
Stay motivated. The cold weather tends to make us feel sluggish and lazy, so don't go it alone. Find a fitness buddy to help keep you motivated and accountable. You can also join an outdoor fitness group or sports league that holds regularly scheduled games or training sessions regardless of the weather.
Drink up. It’s a common misconception that we’re less likely to become dehydrated in the cold weather. This simply isn't true. It is just as important to stay hydrated during a winter workout as it is during the spring or summer. Drink plenty of water before, during and after every training session.
Wear layers. No matter the sport or activity, you can always remove a layer of clothing if you get too warm and put it back on if you get too cold. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer followed by a good thermal shirt. Add a final protective layer as needed to protect against wind and precipitation. Remember that sun's rays can still damage your skin during the winter, so wear plenty of sunscreen and look for workout gear with SPF protection.
Don't be a wet blanket. After your workout, change into warm, dry clothing as soon as possible. Sitting around in wet, cold workout gear is a recipe for sickness, and changing will help keep your muscles warm and loose.
Don't weather a storm. Be sensible about exercising in harsher winter conditions. Know when to skip a winter outdoor session or opt for an hour at the gym instead. Exposing your body to extreme conditions in the name of fitness is actually counterproductive. If the weather forces you to take a day or two off, don't sweat it.
If you're looking for more ways to get moving during the long winter season, sign up for one of Goshen Health's many affordable fitness classes.