Thursday, February 10, 2011

Beat The Winter Blues

As many of us find ourselves in the doldrums of winter, finding and establishing a satisfying workout routine may prove challenging.  If you live in a snowy region of the nation, you might wonder how you can possibly get exercise a few times a week when you can barely walk outside.  As a Southern Californian, I’ve got zero authority on the subject.  However, friends and family in Park City and Boston confirmed my suspicions about great sources of exercise, and I’ll share their ideas.
1.       Snow Shoveling – this is an AMAZING workout, and I encourage all snowbound people to engage in it!  Some sources estimate that you can burn over 400 calories an hour shoveling heavy snow.    In addition, the constant lifting and pushing is a great resistance workout for your upper body and core.  You’re also engaging in balance exercises as you try to avoid slipping on wet, icy cement.  So, get out there today and find your driveway, make a path to your front door, or create a sled track in your backyard!

2.       Downhill skiing – If you’re lucky enough to live in a mountainous region, try downhill skiing or snowboarding.  Downhill skiing and snowboarding are great for both aerobic exercise and resistance training.  Holding your position while going downhill works all of your muscles, and the challenge of getting back to the lift is an amazing upper body workout.   You can burn 500-700 per hour! 

3.       Cross Country Skiing – There are two types of cross-country skiing: skate and classic.  Skate skiing is best on groomed trails, while classic can be done on either.  Many tracks have grooved tracks for classic skis.  Cross-country ski packages cost about half of what a downhill package costs.  Skis, boots, poles, and a tour may cost only $15-$20 per day!  However, you may find free tracks in your area or you can head off the beaten path.  Cross country skiing is a great winter sport option for all ages.  If you decide you love cross country skiing and want to buy your own, but you don’t want to spend a fortune, you’re in luck!  You can get a pair of brand-new cross country skis, boots, bindings and poles for around $350.  Equipment exchanges or Craigslist may offer them for significantly less.  Additionally, you don’t need to purchase additional clothing to do the sport.  If you live in the cold, you’ve probably already got a base layer, shell, pants, gloves, and a cap.  Cross country skiing burns 750-1000 calories per hour.

4.       Snow Shoeing – A fun activity for people of all ages, snow shoeing gets you outside and off the beaten path.  You can take your whole family out for the day for the inexpensive cost of rentals.  A family of four may get out for less than $50 for a full day.

5.       The Gym – If you’ve got a gym membership, USE IT!  Get on the Stairmaster, exercise bike, elliptical, or treadmill for 30 minutes.  Keep your heart rate between 55-75% of your max.  If you’re so inclined, head to the weight room and engage in some resistance training.  Your muscles and bones need the work, and you’ll feel great even on the gloomiest day.

6.       Stair Climbing – if you are stuck in an office all day, take to the stairs on your lunch break.  Bring a pair of athletic shoes to work and get cardiovascular exercise on your lunch break.  Take the elevator to the first floor and head up as far as you can go.  Save your knees and take the elevator back down.  If you feel good, do it again.  Try climbing for 15 minutes.  Then, go eat your healthy lunch.  You’ve just burned about 100 calories and done your resistance training!

7.       Take A Walk – my friend in Boston told me that the challenge of taking a simple walk was a great winter workout.  Scaling snow piles taller than her, avoiding slips on the ice, and jumping slush puddles worked up quite a sweat.  Be careful when you’re out there!

8.       Mall Walking – Many cities offer Mall Walking.  You can pack up a stroller and get a great power walk at the mall before the stores open.  I love this!  Getting your workout in before 10 am is so empowering!  You’ll feel great the rest of the day.

9.       Running – If the roads aren’t icy, don’t be afraid to head out for an invigorating run.  Invest in a good pair of running tights, though.

10.    Snowball Fight – If you’re not completely exhausted by doing all that other stuff, have a snowball fight.  It’s fun.  Be silly.

What To Do In A Blizzard
Blizzard conditions turn everyday living into a hazard.  Driving and walking may be impossible, so what do you do while you’re stuck inside?
1.       Wii Fit – The Nintendo Wii offers a great workout.  Get the whole family involved in boxing, running, bowling, golf, tennis, or any other sport.  You’ll have fun a work out while spending some time bonding with your family.

2.       Dance Party, USA! – Get your favorite dance songs blasting on iTunes and have at it!  A mere 30 minutes of dancing can burn about 100 calories, and you’ll get comic relief from everybody’s awful moves.  Find out if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about.  Have fun, and be silly!

3.       Exercise Videos – Blizzards are a great time for your favorite exercise videos.  Dust off your yoga DVD or vintage Jane Fonda and get moving.  You can also find exercise programs streaming on YouTube, On Demand, and Netflix.  Some workouts only take 5 minutes!  Spending some time stretching, working out, and cooling down will both elevate your mood and keep you healthy.  Get the kids involved, too.  They’ll have a great time kicking and jumping along with you.
Mercifully, winter doesn’t last forever.  In a few months, the snow will melt and you’ll be able to ride bikes and hike again.  Until then, keep your heart pumping and your body moving.  Take control of your mood and your health by creatively engaging in fun winter activities.
What do you do to stay fit in winter?  How do you beat a gray, snowy day?  Please leave comments and share.  Your great ideas help everybody!


Ryan, Meredith, and Evan said...

Great post, Nat! You definitely hit all the winter exercises I can think of. And I felt a little bit like a celebrity being the "friend from Boston" :-)

Natalie said...

Thanks Mer! You know how I love Bostonians. I (finally) became a fan of snow this Christmas in Park City. All I want to do now is ski!