With winter coming up, I’m very interested in figuring out what sort of winter exercise options I have for the cold months. Regardless of how I cling to summer and fall, the inevitable winter chill seems to already be here. I’ve noticed people changing their routines and starting to go into Winter Hibernation Mode already! For instance, we just made chili on a cold day! That’s something we seem to make mostly during the winter, for some reason. So when that gets made …I know winter is here.
Clearly my normal routine of outside bicycle and walking are not going to work. Before you ask, no, I am not one of those guys that bikes in the winter. That’s just asking for an injury for me. Same thing with walking on an icy street. Not gonna happen! This is Minnesota, our ice, snow and cold make that a non-starter. So, if not that, then what can I do to keep myself from slipping into an inactive and sedentary deep winter sleep?
Some fun winter activities are actually still outdoors. The winter does offer some pleasant exercise opportunities, albeit they are mostly at the mercy of Mother Nature. Still, it might make sense to consider them:
- Ice Skating. If you’re a skater, putting on the skates and hitting the ice at the local pond can be fun and relaxing. Especially if you get a wee game of shinny going! Hockey never goes out of style in the north land.
- Cross Country Skiing. This is a natural here. With so many trails like the Luce Line, and Baker Park, a little cross country skiing can be great cardio vascular exercise. For me, the problem is always balance and slipping. It doesn’t take much to create a knee problem..BUT, as I have lost weight I am discovering my capabilities are increasing. With proper support and caution, it might be time to try cross country skiing again! Getting into cross country skiing can be a bit expensive. From what I have seen- and I am no expert, between skis, boots and poles, you would be looking at a minimum of around $350.
- Snow-hiking. Yep, you heard that correct. There are some very beautiful parks and trails here in Minnesota that are prime country for a hike in hip deep snow. I wouldn’t recommend it, however, without a pair of snowshoes. Snowshoes can be had for as little as $50, or as much as $300. It depends on your needs. But for around $120 you can be well outfitted. Snowshoes are also designed to accommodate a variety of boots so no special footwear is required. Here is a great article from REI explaining all about snowshoes.
Indoor At Home:
If you need your exercise to be accessible, fit into a tight schedule or be able to do it when the motivation hits you, then you likely need to be able to exercise at home. This category is where I likely fit in. I’ve felt that, for me, having an immediate option for exercise contributes to program sustainability.
- Free Weights/Body Weights. This is something I already do at home. With the help of a trainer to write you a program, or a considerable amount of research (No, seriously, get a trainer to write the program, to prevent injuring yourself) you could have a program of free weights or body weight exercises that could fill the bill! Right now I am accomplishing this with very few pieces of equipment. I have just a few free weights, a bench, resistance bands, ankle weights and an adjustable step. Total cost was around $120.
- Stair Climbing. Stairs are free. Stairs are in every apartment building and might even be at your place of business! Climb some flights of stairs! Include intervals of walking the halls to add variety to your stair climbing. A good, quick workout can be obtained in this way. It’s also great for throwing in a little variety.
- Home Exercise Machines. These can be very expensive. However if you have one, it can provide you exactly what you need without ever having to leave the house. I have an elliptical and recumbent bike machine. They are both fantastic and I love them. The elliptical provides me with some variety with the myriad of programs available for it. As most of you know who follow this blog, the elliptical is also a key piece for me because it is low impact and lessens the chance of injury. As I have aged, I find I am more prone to injury.
- Workout DVDs. These can be fantastic – provided you are healthy enough and capable of carrying out the activities. Modifications can be made, but again, get a trainer to help you here. The workout DVD’s give you pace and a time frame for your work out. Many of them will get your heart beating and work specific muscle groups per your requirements. Cost is also very inexpensive with these systems. Quality workout DVD’s and systems (like P90X etc) can be had for as little as $100.
- Yoga. While I know little about yoga, I wanted to include it in this list because I do know a fair amount of people that are practitioners both at home and in a gym. Again, it’s one of those activities that would be best to learn with a trainer, but also is a learned skill that can stay with you for many years. Yoga gyms are also very popular, as is yoga on Youtube. Much like Tai Chi, Yoga in the Indian tradition has a meditative aspect in addition to the physical exercise aspect.
- Tai Chi. This is an ancient Chinese martial art comprised of slow, deliberate body movements. It’s not designed to burn calories or elevate your heart rate, instead it is about restoring circulation, balance and alignment. It is very meditative in nature, slow, graceful and low impact. It has been described as moving meditation. Despite not being cardiovascular, it is very good exercise that engages the whole body.
Indoor Not At Home:
If you’re ok braving the cold to travel to an exercise destination, or have a great deal of dedication to your exercise routine, you might be able to partake of some of the following options.
- Mall Walking. I am actually a pretty big fan of mall walking. It’s free! Malls are generally big enough that you can walk quickly and keep your heart rate elevated for a significant time. The people-watching isn’t half-bad either!
- Community Center Rec Sports. Municipalities often have rec sports leagues. Perhaps joining a community basketball league or some other casual sport may be just what is needed for the winter. It all depends on if you enjoy team sports and this kind of activity. Most municipalities have some kind of rec sports option for their communities during the winter.
- Swimming is a tremendous exercise. It’s low impact, and works your full body. There are few exercises better for someone prone to or recovering from injury. Perhaps your apartment has an indoor swimming pool, or your local community center, or even a local gym.
- Gyms. Speaking of gyms…that’s another option. Gyms offer tremendous opportunity ranging from simple, Spartan and essential exercise options, to complex country-club atmospheres replete with restaurants and other amenities. There’s also many varieties of gym, including women-only, pilates, aerial fitness, interval training, etc. Correspondingly the price also varies a great deal. I have seen as low as $10/month and up to hundreds per month. Regardless of your requirements, there is likely a gym option that would suit you. For myself, I’ve always struggled with the idea of a gym because I have options that don’t require a monthly payment, and it’s easier to sustain if I can do my exercise routine at the drop of a hat. This isn’t to say I wouldn’t try it at some point. You never know, I might just love it.
Change is Good
One thing I like about this winter transition is that it is an opportunity to try something new. Switching up our exercise routines is essential to keeping our bodies working hard and improving. We already do that in small ways like choosing a different free weight exercise to work different muscle groups or choosing to bike an extra mile than what you did yesterday. But the seasonal change brings on a whole new set of options for us – and perhaps provides the needed shove to propel us into something new. That’s the promise I am making to myself this year. This winter I am going to try something new for exercise. What it will be, I have not decided …but the change of season brings a need for change in my routine. It’s time to keep things fresh and interesting! What about you? What will you do this year?