How to Stay Active this Winter
When temperatures drop, your workout doesn’t need to suffer.
Winter is just getting started and it’s only natural that your fitness routine (and your motivation) might take a hit. This is even more true when you consider that many gyms around the country are currently closed due to the pandemic, which leaves you with outdoor workouts during the coldest weather season. The very thought makes us want to pour a cup of hot cocoa and settle into the couch.
But, it goes without saying that the benefits of regular exercise far outweigh the inconvenience of cold weather. Regular workouts will improve your mood (key during winter’s decreased daylight), increase your energy levels and help you get a better night’s sleep. So we’ve put together a winter primer for how to stay active during the cold weather.
Understand the Why
We’re only at the start of winter. If you’ve already seen your activity level plummet, it’s important to know that’s normal. “During colder months, we tend to spend less time being active and focusing on self-care,” says Osayi Osunde, owner of Philadelphia-based Fit Academy. “Plus, this time of year is full of back-to back national holidays and social get-togethers. It’s all bound to lead to a few extra pounds.”
Adding insult to injury, we’re also in that time of year when sunlight is at a minimum. “Not only does it get darker sooner, but we tend to hunch forward against the wind and cold, which creates a defensive posture,” says yoga teacher and partner at New York-based NY Loves Yoga MJ Watkins. “When the seasons change, so do our bodies.”
Which means it’s that much harder (and more important) to stay active when the temperatures drop. “When our bodies adjust to cold weather, things contract,” says New York-based personal trainer Lucas Hall. “Any tightness we already have in our muscles gets amplified. Movement is so important to help loosen stiff joints and help the mind stay sharp.”
Carve Out Time
Any movement is better than no movement. If you’ve only got twenty minutes, make sure to make those minutes count with a circuit that hits most of the main muscle groups. Osunde recommends doing four rounds of the below:
● Push-up to toe touch
● Squat + curl + shoulder press (using resistance bands or dumbbells)
● Bear crawls
● 180 squat jumps
● Reverse lunge + row (using resistance bands or dumbbells)
For an at-home yoga practice, Watkins suggests starting with a quick walk around your home using opposite arms and opposite legs, which she says will cross your energy patterns. “Make sure to use deep diaphragm breathing, too, to bring the body, mind and energy together,” she says.
“In the winter, everything slows down and our bodies want to rest,” says Hall. “It’s important to honor that you might not want to do that super active class, and instead opt for something slower and more restorative.” For a nice blend of movement on the mat, Hall suggests the below for a quick yoga series:
● 10 minutes of sun salutations
● Hold plank for 1 minute
● Hold cobra for 1 minute
● Side planks on each side
● Low crescent lunge on each side
● Pyramid pose on each side
● Relax for 2 minutes, focusing on your breath
When it comes to gear that can battle the elements, think lightweight, layering hoodies and leggings that keep you both warm and dry in cold weather conditions. Osunde also recommends investing in a set of portable resistance bands to use both indoors or outdoors. This kind of portable fitness equipment makes it more convenient to get in a workout wherever you are. “I also love a percussive device, or massager, to help loosen fascia, increase blood flow and increase mobility,” he says. “You’ll warm up faster in cold weather and it helps muscles recover while you’re relaxing at home afterwards.”
If you’re sticking to your exercise goals but crushing the holiday cookies, you’re basically just treading water. To see fitness results and actually make them stick, it’s important to supplement your exercise routine with a healthy diet.
“Nutrition is always the number one factor in achieving any wellness goal,” says Osunde. “In the winter months, you’re naturally less active, so it’s even more important to be aware of what you’re putting in your body. Keep a balanced diet that's full of veggies, high-quality protein and complex carbs that will keep you fueled and fit for winter.”
“Especially during the holidays, it’s so easy to fall into the habit of overeating or consuming a lot of processed food,” says Hall. “But the colder months are a great opportunity to nurture the body with clean foods like soups, stews and root vegetables. Think warm foods that nourish.”
And don’t forget hydration, which will help with mood, muscle recovery and maintaining energy levels. Osunde says most people should aim to have 6-8 glasses of water per day, and even more on workout days.
Ready to get going?