COLD PLAY – WINTER FITNESS: On Foot, Ski, or Snowshoe . . . It’s All Good

Cross country skiing is a low impact, total body conditioning, and high calorie-burning activity

As the weather turns colder, and daylight hours get shorter, there is a tendency to stay indoors where it is warm and dry, curl up with a good book and a hot drink and promise yourself that you will get back into shape when spring returns. Unfortunately, this behaviour can result in weight gain, depression, low energy levels, and illness. And come spring, provides the perfect prerequisite for musculoskeletal problems, even heart attacks, as people try to get back in shape and do too much too fast. There are a number of things to do in winter, outdoors and in, which will prevent the hibernating instinct from taking over.

OUTDOORS

Get walking in a winter wonderland. If you are a walker, don’t let the snowy, cold weather prevent you from your regular walking routine. You just need to adjust your workout wear to reflect the weather change. Maybe you want to be more creative with your winter walks. Why not exchange your boots for snowshoes or cross-country skis. Snowshoeing is a relatively easy, low impact aerobic activity that offers a more effective workout than just walking through snow in your boots. If you want a more intense workout, cross-country skiing might be worth a try. It is a low impact, total body conditioning, and high calorie-burning activity. As part of the package, you have the added benefits of fresh air, sunshine and beautiful scenery.

Be a mogul on the mountain. If you are an adventurous spirit, downhill skiing or snowboarding are exhilarating winter activities. If you are new to either sport, exercise caution. Get proper equipment and adequate instruction before hitting the slopes. For something just as exhilarating, but perhaps less intimidating, look back to your childhood days of tobogganing. Sledding is loads of fun and those repeated treks up the hill will give your heart, lungs and legs a workout.

Look out Dorothy Hamil. If snow sports don’t interest you, don’t forget about ice-skating. It’s a great winter activity that the whole family can enjoy, indoors and out.

Once you’ve made the decision to get outside and play this winter you need to be prepared. Here are some winter activity tips courtesy of the Mayo Clinic.

Winter Activity Tips

• Dress right. Layering is key. The innermost layer should be one that draws sweat away from your body. A second layer should provide insulation. The outermost layer should be as windproof and waterproof as possible.
• Hands and feet are particularly vulnerable to the cold. Wear mittens or gloves that employ the same layering system as mentioned above. Wool or polypropylene socks will keep the feet warm and dry, and proper fitting all-climate shoes will provide traction and stability.
• You can lose as much as 40% of your body heat if your head is exposed to the elements. Cover your head, ears and neck. Fleece balaclavas will cover the whole head and neck and provide openings for breathing and vision
• Protect your eyes by wearing goggles or wraparound sunglasses
• Wear natural sunscreen and lip balm with sunscreen
• Plan ahead. If going out alone walking or snowshoeing let someone know or better yet have a friend join you
• Warm up and stretch before any activity
• Watch the weather. Be aware of wind chill values and approaching storms
• Beware of icy conditions, especially black ice
• Drink plenty of water. You still can get dehydrated in winter
• Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia
• Wear a helmet for downhill skiing and snowboarding

INDOORS

You can stay in shape this winter with a variety if indoor activities as well.

Get up and dance. With the festive season comes parties and a great excuse to put on your dancing shoes. Dancing is a great aerobic activity and a fun way to burn off all those “seasonal treat” calories. If you are not a party animal, you can still stay in touch with your inner dancing queen and sign up for a dance class this winter.

Water works. Swimming improves overall fitness and is easy on the joints. Most communities have indoor pools that offer swimming lessons, free swims, and aquafit classes.

Join a gym or sign up for a fitness class with your community parks and recreation. Both offer a vast array of fitness equipment and programs suitable for all ages, interests, and fitness levels. If motivation and adherence are an issue, get a friend or family member to join with you. If you are considering a health club, shop around to find one you feel comfortable in, and check out the possibility of signing up for a short term.

Bring the gym home. If the club scene is not for you, think about purchasing home exercise equipment (weights, exercise ball, tread mill, stationary bike) and/or some home exercise videos. Before buying equipment do some research, get expert and reputable advice and test it out. Your local library has a variety of exercise videos you can borrow or check the video store or online to see what is available.

Shop ‘til you drop. Shopping may not be a valid form of exercise, but you can get out to the mall and just walk around. You may be surprised what a good workout it is.

Staying in shape this winter will reap a multitude of benefits. You will avoid winter weight gain, ward off flu and colds, keep the winter blues at bay and prevent springtime injuries. So be a cold player, stay active this winter. Then you can enjoy those lazy times in front of the fireplace with hot chocolate and a romance novel guilt-free.

FIT-TING GIFTS

If you want to be smart and thoughtful this year why not give a gift of fitness to the people on your shopping list. Here are some ideas to hopefully make your holiday shopping a little less stressful.

1. Exercise apparel. Yoga pants, sweats, leggings, socks or tanks always come in handy. The Naturopath – aka Vitality assistant editor Paul Henderson’s significant other – likes Lululemon Athletica’s yoga and fitness wear – www.lululemon.com

2. Exercise balls, hand weights bands or tubes. For weight training these are all affordable and a safe and excellent way to get lean and strong.

3. Home Exercise Videos. Stott Pilates – www.stottpilates.com and Gaiam – www.gaiam.com are great resources for body-mind home exercise videos or DVDs.

4. Exercise mats. Yoga sticky mats are my favourite — safe and comfortable

5. Tread Mill or Exercise Bike (hopefully they will be used for more than a coat rack).

6. Exercise Books. One of my current picks this year would be Colleen Craig’s Strength Training on the Ball. It targets all ages and fitness levels and the writing is captivating and inspiring.

7. Heart Rate Monitor. Safe and effective cardiovascular training requires that you maintain your heart rate at a certain level of intensity for at least 20 minutes per workout. Using a heart rate monitor can help make sure your exercise intensity is at the optimum level.

8. Pedometer. This is a perfect gift for the walker, hiker, or jogger on your list.

9. Gift Certificates for a membership to a fitness club or community recreation centre. These days you can even purchase an online personal training program tailored specifically to the recipient.

10. Subscription to a health and wellness magazine. My top recommendation would be Vitality Magazine, of course. Just send your request to: subscribe@vitalitymagazine.com to get a FREE subscription to Vitality‘s digital magazine.

Write a Comment

view all comments

Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person. Required fields marked as *