How to Stay Fit During the Winter Months

Physicians Health Network Health & Awareness Articles

Winter’s chill is in the air. Not only is it getting colder outside, but the days are getting shorter and the motivation for exercise can easily begin to dwindle. As the temperatures plummet you may not want to even think of leaving the comfort and warmth of your home. However, there are many ways to take control over your fitness battle and avoid letting winter get the better of you! “By arming yourself with a few coping strategies, you can enjoy the season and ready for the warmer weather ahead,” said Tony Gries, DPT, CSCS, ATI Physical Therapy.

Winter can be severe and is not the ideal time of year to ‘dive in’ to a workout routine. For those who don’t have a defined routine, and even for those who have a routing, but tend to lose their motivation in the winter, Gries offers the following cold weather workout tips.
1. Be sure to warm-up before your workout. Getting the blood flowing to the muscles, which heats them up and helps prevent stiffness.
2. A workout buddy can help you stay committed, more accountable and often adds a little competition, which makes the activity more enjoyable.
3. Post your progress on social media or among online fitness groups you may join to help keep you on track. You may even help others get more active.
4. This is a good time for you to try a new activity or class to add a little variation in your workout routine. In fact, many gyms offer winter specials, which makes it a great time to try something new.
5. Set goals for where you would like to be, or what you’d like to accomplish in the spring – it is hard to slack off when you have a goal.
6. Wisconsin is known for its winter gray skies, but when the sun shines, it is important to get outside for the powerful energy boost and vitamin D it provides.
7. There are some wonderful activities that can only be done in winter. Cross-country skiing, snow skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowball fights or building a snowman with the kids are great ways to get outdoor exercise and opportunities for getting some of winter’s fresh, crisp air and sunshine.
8. You may decide to hire a trainer during the winter months, especially if you’ve been sedentary for a long period of time. A trainer will work with you to determine the best activities for you and coaches you to help you push through the season safely. For many, the investment alone helps keep them active and healthy through the winter.
9. Explore the world of apps and YouTube! There are many options available for indoor workouts.
10. Are you a dog person? If so, good that is good news for FIDO! Commit to walking him/her on a regular basis. While the cold weather be your favorite time to go out for a walk, it’s a wonderful time for your dog. The pavement is cooler on their paws and they generally love the feel of the brisk, cool air.

“If you are a runner or walker, you don’t have to give up your outdoor running or walking routine when the temperatures get cold, but there are some things to consider before you head outside,” said Gries.
1. The nose, ears, fingers and toes are especially vulnerable to the cold. To avoid frostbite keep them covered by wearing a hat, scarf/or neck warmer and gloves.
2. Moisture is extremely dangerous when exercising in the cold so wear waterproof shoes to keep your feet dry and make sure you wear thermal or two pairs of socks to keep your toes warm.
3. Layers are the key to exercising in the cold weather. Exercise generates heat, which may make you feel too warm. Dressing this way gives you the option of taking a layer off, piece-by-piece.
4. While dressing in layers is the key to cold weather exercising, it only works when you layer correctly. The first layer should be a synthetic material such as polypropylene to keep sweat off your skin. Avoid cotton since it stays wet and can cause your skin to get cold. The next layer should be fleece or wool for insulation. The top layer should be a waterproof, breathable material. To avoid overheating, if you are exercising hard, do not wear a heavy jacket.
5. Stay hydrated. In the summer months we think about hydrating, but it’s equally as important in the winter. Winter is a dry time of year so your body needs more water even when you are not sweating. Dehydration causes muscle fatigue and weakness so drink lots of water.
“There is no question, Wisconsin winters are long and the temptation to hibernate is real. It is a challenge to find what will motivate us during this season. Above all, I encourage you to look for the activities that will help you get through, stay active and enjoy what winter has to offer,” said Gries.