Working Out in a Winter Wonderland

Woman running in winter

While we haven’t had snow in New York City yet, I always find it harder to get myself out of bed for a workout in the morning knowing it’s chilly outside. If you’re anything like me, the winter weather poses a significant challenge to your exercise habits. Most people drop outdoor activity to focus on the indoors, but gym fees or lack of needed equipment at home can make winter a time that ruins exercise regimens. To help keep you active this winter, I want to share some of the strategies I’ve found helpful in staying fit even when the weather is cold out. Getting started now will help to keep you from losing your summer momentum.

Find a Training Partner

Cold weather can be a major barrier to getting yourself to the gym and it can be tempting just to stay at home when faced with a frigid walk to your car. Knowing that a dedicated workout partner is waiting for you and holding you accountable can add the extra push you need to get out the door when cold weather gives you second thoughts. That partner can be anyone and doesn’t necessarily need to do the same workout as you. Often the knowledge that someone else will know you skipped your workout is enough to keep you honest. On top of the workout, you can add some social time before or after to save you an extra trip out to meet up with friends later on.

Have an At-Home Backup

Even when you have someone waiting, the weather might just not cooperate. Icy roads, heavy sleet, or falling snow might all derail even the best-laid plans. But don’t let that keep you from getting a good workout in. There are plenty of routines you can do at home. The key is to find them before you hit trouble. If you have a contingency plan ready in advance, you won’t miss a beat when you see trouble outside. If you have anyone at home with you, try to get them to join you. These workouts are a lot more fun when done with others. The best part of working out at home? You save yourself the time and hassle of commuting to the gym.

Try a New Winter Sport

Most people are used to doing the classic summer sports, but I’ve found that most are less adventurous when it comes to the winter. But don’t worry if you don’t know how to ski. There are plenty of other sports you can do in the winter that just about anyone can engage in. If you used to go out walking, try snowshoeing instead. The unevenness of the snow forces your legs and core to work harder than usual and can get you sweating at even a leisurely pace. I like to think of cross-country skiing as running’s winter cousin. Just like running, cross-country skiing gives you a great workout and is a wonderful way to get out into nature.

Don’t forget that it’s not all about sports. Sometimes recreation can push your muscles more than a workout at the gym. I’ve always found that building a snowman can take some serious work, and chasing your kids around for a snowball fight can get you running harder than you ever would on a treadmill. Ice-skating is one of my personal favorites that everyone in the family can enjoy and will remind you the day after of muscles you’d completely forgotten.

Set Yourself a Goal With a Reward

Sometimes the only thing that gets me going is knowing I’ve got a reward to work toward. Setting smaller goals for yourself in advance with rewards when you achieve them is a great way to stay motivated. For example, you could commit to a night out at your favorite restaurant once you hit a full month without missing any workouts. Get someone else in on it to help you stay motivated and true both to your goals and to the reward at the end. The bonus here is that you have someone to celebrate with.

Get Some Winter Gear

For many years, I wrote off running in the winter saying I could never run all covered up in leggings and sweaters. But it wasn’t until I took the plunge and bought some real winter running gear that I realized what a mistake I’d been making. One of the keys to cold weather exercise is having the right gear to wear if you’re going to be outside. You want clothes that are light and breathable, but warm and easy to layer. Having a good, light wind barrier to go on top often makes the weather much more manageable by cutting wind chill when you’ve worked up a sweat.

Change Your Frame of Mind

In my opinion, this is the most important step of all when it comes to winter weather. Most of what throws you off of your exercise game is what’s happening in your head. You convince yourself that it’s too cold out and that you’ll be miserable if you try to run rather than putting on your warmer gear and giving it a try. You dread the falling snow rather than embracing it as adding new beauty to your usual landscape or you count down the days until you can wear your summer clothes again rather than getting excited about the opportunity to break out your winter fashion. Viewing the coming of winter as a negative will frame everything about it as discouraging and will make everything to do with it, including winter exercise, less appealing. Approaching the colder seasons with a positive attitude that seeks new possibilities rather than lamenting lost ones is the true secret to keeping yourself fit all year round, even when the weather turns cold.