by Scott Danberg, MS Fitness Director, Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa, Miami, Florida
Want to feel invigorated? Really alive? Get outdoors this fall and winter for a variety of cold weather workouts. There’s another big bonus. You’ll probably burn more calories on your favorite outdoor trails in winter versus warmer months. That’s because intensity (how hard you’re working out) tends to ramp up in cooler weather, and with more intensity comes more calorie burn.
Before heading out, here are 5 key tips that can help you stay firm, fit, and safe on snowy trails all season long.
1. Take a look at your health.
If you have certain conditions, such as asthma or heart problems, it’s important to make an appointment with your doctor before working out in the icy cold. Your doctor can review any special precautions you may need. One recommendation you may hear is to start out slowly, which gives your cardiovascular system a chance to adapt. Actually, this is a good recommendation for everyone. And take breaks. For example, while out on your first snow shoveling stints (a great cardiovascular workout, by the way), slow down for a little two-minute rest every 10 minutes or so. Amble around the yard, breathe in the fresh brisk air, and relax.
2. Layer up.
Dress in layers that you can peel off as soon as you start to warm up but are easy to put back on when needed, like when you’re cooling down at the end of your workout. Next to your skin avoid cotton because it tends to sop up sweat, turning you chilly real fast.
3. Warm up (maybe even before heading outside)
Warming up before working out is always important, but especially so in winter. Before that winter chill smacks you in the face, move around indoors for 5 to 10 minutes – treadmilling, bicycling, walking slowly up and down the stairs, or simply walking in place. In doing so, you’ll hit the outdoors with joints lubricated and blood flowing to working muscles – a great way to avoid injury.
4. Protect your head, hands, and feet.
When temperatures hit the freezing mark, we can lose about 50 percent of our body heat if our heads aren’t covered. So pull on a hat that covers your ears. And don’t forget gloves and for your feet thick thermal socks or an extra pair of regular socks. It’s important because in cold weather blood leaves your extremities to keep your torso and internal organs warm. Plus, you’ll simply feel a lot better without freezing fingers and toes calling out to you.
Break out of your usual outdoor routine. There are all kinds of winter sports activities that are not only fun, they’re great calorie-burners and tremendously beneficial for your heart. Think of them as your own winter form of cross-training. Excellent cardiovascular workouts include cross country skiing, ice skating, and snowshoeing. Stop-and-go sports like sledding, snowboarding, and downhill skiing are also wonderful for overall fitness and weight control.
When all is said and done, what’s most important is to just keep moving, whether indoors or out. Resist the temptation to park yourself on the sofa all winter long. Enjoy the season’s deep blue skies, the serene white landscapes, the crunch of ice under your feet, the peace. For your health and sheer love of life, you’ll be so glad you did.