Exercising in the cold is not always pleasant, especially when the ground turns into a slip-and-slide and running shoes are unsuitable for trekking through the snow or insulating your feet. However, there are many great ways to exercise outside– yes, even in the dead of winter. Weight-gain is typically synonymous with the winter, but it does not have to be. My last article focused on tips for eating healthy during the holidays, but having a consistent workout routine during the year is also key for many reasons other than shedding a few kilos.
Weight-loss is not the only reason for exercising; not everyone needs to be concerned with losing weight, but it is important for both our bone density and muscle mass. According to a study by the Mayo Clinic, a healthy muscle mass is linked to healthy bones. Keeping regular strength training routine can help us improve muscle mass, and in turn, support bone density. Furthermore, the National Osteoporosis Foundation claims “high-impact weight-bearing exercises help build bones and keep them strong.” Some examples of high-impact weight-bearing exercises including: running/jogging, jump roping, hiking, tennis, dancing and stair climbing.
Put a Smile on your Face
Exercise is also a great way to boost your mood. When we workout, our bodies release neurochemicals called endorphins. According to J. Kip Matthews, a sport and exercise psychologist, endorphins activate receptors that minimize pain and they can also promote feelings of euphoria and well-being. Winter can be a dreary time with fewer hours of sun and unchanging gray skies, but getting a workout in can brighten any day.
How we fuel our bodies is also key to our mood. If we consume a diet high in refined grains (white bread, white pasta, white rice), sugar and fat, we will not be giving our brain and body a chance to function at its best. Eating sugary treats and drinking sweetened beverages may give us a temporarily happy feeling, but lead the body to sugar spikes and subsequently, sugar crashes, which are characterized by feelings of fatigue, anxiety, irritability and headaches among others. Make sure to eat a diet rich in whole, unrefined and minimally processed foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Play Mind Games
Switching up your workouts is key to building muscle. Muscle memory, which is basically the brain’s way of storing a movement, makes it easier to do the same exercise overtime. So, if you have ever done a fitness class for the first time, you may have been extremely sore. But, after the second and third time, you probably were less sore, or perhaps not sore at all. Being sore is not necessarily a bad thing as long as it is not an injury. Do not do the same routine every time if you want to keep challenging your muscles and your mind.
While climbing a mountain may seem a bit extreme and perhaps dangerous, if you live in an apartment building, stair climbing is a no-brainer. Put on your sneakers and start running or walking up and down those stairs like there is no tomorrow; just make sure they are not icy. You will get your heart rate up in no time. Challenge yourself to a certain number of flights or set your timer for two minutes and race against the clock to see how many flights you can get in. Rest for a minute and see if you can beat your record or at least match it. Repeat three times.
Turn on the TV
Turn on the television, but skip the couch. There are many great workouts that you can get through smart TVs, DVDs or even video game consoles like Xbox that include exercises like high-impact aerobics and weight-lifting routines. You can find inexpensive dumbbells and equipment at a local sports store or online to intensify the workouts.
Let it Snow
Ice-skating is extremely conducive to winter weather. Most cities have at least one ice rink, and bigger cities can have dozens or even hundreds. According to Mos.ru, there are as many as 1,445 ice-skating rinks in Moscow alone. Find one that is close to you and grab some friends for a fun workout. Most rinks even have music, so it is like a party on skates. Just make sure to leave the alcohol at home; skating while under the influence is a hazard to yourself and other skaters. Skiing and snowboarding are also great options for winter sports.
Back to Basics
If you find yourself at home and just want to get in a quick workout, some muscle-building exercises you can do include things like pushups, squats, sit-ups, and planks. You can do any combination of these and mix them up; each of these exercises has many variants. Try a one-handed pushup, a reverse squat, reverse lunges, lunges with dumbbells, squats with weights, or side-planks. If you still need more variation, go online for inspiration. There are many things you can do to adopt a consistent training routine without necessarily joining a gym. Of course, a gym will provide more options, but you can always start with at-home workouts.
Whatever you choose, have fun with it and do not give up after the first time. Some workouts are tougher than others, but if you stay with it, you will improve overtime. Seeing results can be exciting and empowering, and it will be motivation to continue. It is also essential to remember that diet is a key component to getting results. If you exercise but neglect your diet, you will not see the progress you had probably hoped for. Make sure to hydrate properly before and after workouts with water, avoiding sugary drinks like soda, juice or sports drinks. What are you waiting for? Put on a pair of trainers, skates or skis and get to it!