How to Get Outside and Exercise This Winter
I am the biggest wimp when it comes to cold weather. I’m convinced that blood doesn’t pump to my fingers or toes! Moving to Oregon from Arizona was a shock as well, as it’s not only colder, it’s also more cloudy. Yet me unfailing belief in the power of getting exercise in the great outdoors is important, no matter what time of year it is.
My fitness lifestyle has always involved being outside. During my first really bad rainy Pacific Northwest winter I gained weight. I was so confused as to why this had happened! Then I realized I wasn’t working out as much because I didn’t want to go outside, and it was affecting my mood. This fall, I decided not to prepare to hibernate, but rather to embrace the cold and keep my active outdoor daily lifestyle.
Why should I even think about working out outside rather than just run on a treadmill indoors when it is rainy, snowy and cold outside?
Great question, me! So have you ever heard the term winter blues? Well fresh air and exercise together can help that. Being outside brightens your mood (Vitamin D anyone?) and stimulates your mind. You will find that you are much more alert for the rest of the day if you run outside in the morning or midday. You will burn more calories and strengthen your heart, while making you happier and more energized. And don’t worry about the cold air making you sick, that’s a myth. What’s worse is staying indoors all winter and breathing in the air that is circulating in your workplace. I mean, who wants to breath the same air as their coworkers all day? So, now that I’ve convinced you to go outside where it’s miserable, here are some tips to help you get outside this winter.
Warm Up Indoors
First thing: make the rule that when you get home you can’t sit on the couch until you have worked out! If you head home after work, set out all your workout clothes right by your door. Go ahead and change too so you’re ready first thing as soon as you step outside. Before you leave though, get your body temperature up by doing some jumping jacks and lunges. And remember to stretch thoroughly, as that’s important before and after any workout. For an extra heat boost, try putting on your running jacket indoors so whatever heat you produce is close to your body. I like to get a little bit too warm before I head outside, as it really helps you get going.
Keep It Simple
Hesitant to go do a full 10 mile run in 30 degrees? When it’s grey? And windy? And it will probably start raining? And you just got new yoga pants, and netflix has a new season out of your favorite show… I don’t blame you. Keep it simple, just do a 2 mile walk with your dog. If you are trying something that is new or even a little hard, start small and then build up. Just a walk on a lunch break is better than nothing. Seriously. You can do that, right? Just make the commitment.
Have The Right Gear
This one is a big. Something that really motivates me is new cute workout gear or new running shoes. If you are really trying to make it a priority to stay in shape and get outside this winter, invest in some gear. It’s all just motivation to get you moving. Here in rainy Portland, running rain jackets are really popular. If you like trail running, but some of your favorite trails are a little icy or snowy, don some lightweight running crampons.
Now I am usually a firm believer that you can go to Target and spend 15 dollars on cotton tank top to workout in, and that will be just fine. You don’t always need nice expensive workout wear. However, I think working out outdoors in the winter is an exception. If you are too cold or get too sweaty or wet, you will hate it and never want to do it again. I learned that last part from personal experience! I found that having good winter running gear makes a world of difference. I am a little cold at first, but once I warm up, running in the cold is actually very enjoyable. Also remember that you are going to get warm so don’t over dress. Common advice is to dress as though it is 10 degrees warmer than it really is. If you are running make sure you have gloves for the wind against your hands. Warm headbands that cover your ears help a ton too. Wool is a great fabric that will keep you warm even when wet. With the right gear it will be never to cold to work out!!
Check out the graphic below for what to wear for certain temperatures. And remember if you are running in rain, or at night/dawn/dusk wear reflective clothing or a neon vest!
Take Advantage of Winter Specific Sports
If you are in an area that you can ski or snowboard, that is an awesome way to get outdoors... and is a killer workout! However, if those activities don’t interest you there are other ways to embrace the winter. Snowshoeing is a great and less expensive way to enjoy the snow and get a ton of exercise. Most sporting goods stores, like REI or Cabelas, or any ski rental company, will rent snowshoes for 10-15 dollars per day. Even shoveling snow is a great way to break a sweat!
Or take your family ice skating with a thermos of hot chocolate. Sometimes giving yourself a reward like hot chocolate or a bath after your workout can give you motivation.
Stop Using the Weather as an Excuse
I use to be the person that needed perfect conditions to go run or be outside. If you wait for the perfect time, it isn’t going to happen. Moving to Oregon changed that for me. I found hiking in the rain (with a good raincoat) to actually be very calming and meditative. Saturday, I did my first run in snow and ice, and it was incredibly fun. I found running in snow gives you a little bit of a cushion and makes you slow down and pay attention to your breath.
The Power of Breath
When you are cold, your reaction is to sometimes take short sharp breaths. Remember to take deep long breaths. When I started doing yoga, it really made me focus on my breath while moving my body. Use these deep therapeutic breaths while you are running, walking, snowshoeing etc. and you'll find you are warm and finding your stride before you know it.
Speaking of excuses, one of the best fitness tips for motivation is to get a workout buddy. This could even be a coworker that you walk outside with during lunch. Having someone to hold you accountable will make it harder to back out of your fitness goal.
My husband and I rarely text or talk during the day when we are both at work. So a couple days a week we take our dog on a long walk and we end up talking a lot since we've barely seen each other that day. Well we have kept that through the winter even in the rain, and even in the early winter darkness. We just grab our headlamps and rain coats, and go!
Hopefully these tips will help you get outside this winter and beat those winter blues!