I love to exercise year-round. In spring and summer, I run and ride my bike outside. If you, like me, live in a place where it gets cold, dark and wet during the winter months, you will need to change the way you exercise. Don't despair! You can still get all your workouts in and keep your fitness at the same level. Adapt these tips for your situation as you modify your workout for winter.
1. Safety first
I start my runs at 6:30 a.m. As the days get shorter it is dark at that time, as well as in the evenings. If you're exercising outside, be sure to wear a headlamp, light-colored or reflective clothing and consider a safety vest with reflective tape. If you're on a bike, get a blinking light for your back and a headlight-like light for the front of your bike. The light helps others see you, but it also helps you avoid possible road hazards. Take extra caution at intersections and when crossing streets.
2. Dress the part
If you're exercising outside, dress for the temperature and conditions. I trained for a marathon through a Michigan winter once, and warm layers, gloves and hat were all necessary. At times, snowshoes would have been helpful, as well. Wear clothing that wicks moisture away from the body, and change your clothes soon after you are finished exercising to help your body temperature regulate.
3. Extra warm up
When the temperature drops, your body needs more time to warm up, which means starting out slower. After you are warmed up you should be able to exercise at a normal intensity. If your extremities get overly cold, it is advisable to go home and warm up in a bath or with a hot drink.
4. Head inside
I definitely hit the gym more in the winter than the summer. To keep from getting bored, try a new fitness class or set up different circuits for yourself. If you don't belong to a gym, there are plenty of at-home workouts you can do, including some with your kids. Look for free online workouts or fitness apps, grab an exercise DVD from the library, or use the elliptical or treadmill that's been sitting all summer.
5. Try a winter sport
. If you live in a snowy place, take advantage of nature's beautiful gift and go downhill skiing, cross country skiing or snowshoeing. These activities will challenge your body in different ways. Many of them are also fun to do with your family.
6. Watch the weather report
I live in Oregon, where rain rules the fall and winter. It doesn't rain every day, though, and there are often a few dry hours every day. By keeping a close eye on the weather, I can plan for outside workouts. Conversely, knowing what's coming will keep you safe and indoors when it's necessary. Icy conditions are unsafe for riding and running, and heavy winds, snow and rain are just no fun.
Don't hibernate from exercise just because winter's coming. With a little planning and flexibility, you can exercise year round. Make easy modifications to your workout and you'll be happy and fit when summer comes again.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.