Learn to enjoy the cold winter weather by trying some new outdoor activities that will boost your heart rate and your happiness.
by Amy Postma
When winter hits, the snow and cold weather can be depressing and uninspiring. There are, however, still many ways to enjoy the outdoors and have fun with your fitness. Winter is a great chance to change up your fitness routine and keep you interested in your exercise program. Depending on what muscles you want to target and what sort of workout you are aiming for, Janet Hughes, certified personal trainer, suggests trading your indoor workouts for outdoor options, such as ice climbing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or hockey. These workout substitutions can help create a natural cross-training program as well as “changing the demand on the body and eliminating the potential for repetitive use injuries,” Hughes explains.
If you are looking for options close to home to fill in time between visits to the gym, you can make use of your neighbourhood by heading to a local park. Go for a refreshing winter hike on the Lower Don Recreation Trail, or head to Withrow Park with your children, nieces, nephews, or young neighbours for some snow activities. Not only will it be fun to relive your childhood, you will get an unbelievable workout climbing the tobogganing hill, rolling giant snowballs, or hauling kids on sleds across the snow. For skating options, Withrow Park and Riverdale Park both have outdoor rinks open to the public for ice-skating or pickup hockey. If you are looking for an intense cardio workout, you can use a neighbourhood park to create your own winter boot camp routine. Create a circuit by weaving in and out of stationary swings and doing chin ups on the monkey bars. You can combine this with skipping rope, jumping jacks, or climbing up the jungle gym. If you are limited on free time or really want to stay close to home, even the mundane act of shovelling snow can be seen as an opportunity to burn calories instead of a dreaded chore.
In the wintertime, safety when exercising outdoors is of the utmost importance in order to get the most out of your workout without doing damage to your body. With ice, slush, and snow, the options of hurting yourself by slipping, falling, or freezing through wet socks are endless. Hughes offers the following tips to ensure you maximize both your workout and safety:
- Stay hydrated with fluids that are at least room temperature
- Be aware of all safety precautions for the activity in which you will be participating
- Save stretching for after your workout when your muscles have been warmed up
- Dress in reflective clothing, as it gets dark very early in the winter
- Dress in layers so that you can alter your clothing to help keep you warm but not sweating throughout your activity. Sweat can be dangerous as it can decrease your clothing’s insulation quality and will cool your body once it has evaporated
- Have a snack handy when exercising outdoors — it takes a lot of energy to stay warm and you may find yourself in need of some extra energy sooner than normal
- Above all, use common sense