Winter Fitness Tips
When the north wind is howling outside and the snow is piling up on the window sill the last thing on most people’s minds is whether they’ll be carting around a few extra pounds when they hit the beach next summer. Most people tend to let conditioning slide during the winter months for a number of reasons. First, getting to the gym can be a hassle when there’s a foot of snow on the ground. Second, running is even a bigger hassle when there’s a foot of snow on the ground and third, heavy winter clothes do a good job of concealing any weight gain. This blissful state of benign neglect when the fitness tracker spends most of its time on the kitchen counter usually lasts until the first warm days of spring when the shorts and t-shirts reveal the impact of all those hot chocolates, holiday cookies and long hours spent watching sports on TV.
Take Advantage of What Winter Has to Offer
While it’s understandable that conditioning tends to ebb during the long months of hibernation it doesn’t have to be that way. With a bit of motivational wind in your sails you can emerge from your lair in April ready to rock. The key is to take advantage of the opportunities the winter provides instead of seeing winter as an enforced period of inactivity. Below we’re going to look at six things you can do this winter in order to ensure your summer body becomes your year-round body.
1: Ditch the Loose Clothes – Oftentimes people lose track of their conditioning during the winter because they lose track of what they look like. They bundle up in lots of loose fitting, oversized clothes because those tend to trap heat better and keep us warmer. Now, no one is saying you should abandon common sense. By all means you should still dress in loose fitting layers when going out during the cold weather. However, once you get home it’s a different story. Ditch the loose fitting clothes and put on something more fitted to your actual shape. If you’re not happy with the way you look when doing so, good. That means the clothes have had their effect, which is to provide you a live stream of your current fitness level and provide motivation to get on the treadmill or to breakout the foam roller.
2: Drink plenty of water – Research indicates that those who drink half a liter of water before eating are able to lose weight far more effectively than those who don’t. Even if the non-water drinker is on a diet that strictly controls caloric intake. The reason is simple: when your stomachs are full of water you don’t feel as hungry and don’t have room for as much food. Water has other benefits as well. Those who drink enough water tend to sleep better, think more clearly and have more resilient, more supple skin than those who don’t. And that last point is important during the winter when artificial heating systems both at home and at work can dry you out like a prune. Drinking enough water is also crucial to optimizing the results of your winter workouts. The American College of Sports Medicine in fact recommends you drink a pint of water two hours before working out. This will give your body time to absorb most of it and to excrete any excess before you start to exercise. While exercising it’s also crucial that you drink enough water to replace what you’re losing by way of sweat.
3: Take up a Winter Sport – What’s the best way to stay in shape during the winter? Avoid being sedentary. What’s the best way to do that? Either setting up a home gym or taking up a winter sport. Since many of us don’t have room to set up a home gym taking up a winter sport is an excellent and effective alternative. If the route you normally run during the winter months is impassable you can leave the running shoes at home and head for the skating rink. Ice skating is excellent all around exercise and many northern cities have affordable outdoor rinks open to the public throughout the winter. Skating not your cup of tea? Try skiing or snowboarding. Sure, skiing is going to set you back a few bucks but it’s a great way to have fun during the long oppressive winter months and stay in tip top shape at the same time. Still not enthused? Well how about winter hiking? It’s not for everyone but those who partake of the splendors of the hiking during the winter months are often rewarded with an unforgettable experience. If you’re still not convinced outdoor sports are for you invest in a rowing machine. They’re great exercise and don’t require the space of a home gym since most can be stored away under your bed. Put your workout earphones on and start rowing.
4: Watch what you eat – Easier said than done most of the time but it’s especially true during the winter. Being essentially housebound during the long winter months means that, instead of being outside mowing the lawn or running a 5k we’re inside eyeing the flyer from the local pizza shop that’s lying on the kitchen counter. But if you want to look great next summer without having to engage in a frantic round of catch up workouts during April and May a bit of discipline regarding what you eat will go a long way. Stay clear of those Christmas cookies being circulated at the office (okay, a couple won’t hurt but keep it to a couple) and toss that flyer from the pizza parlor next time you’re in the kitchen. In addition, make sure the fridge is stocked with fresh fruits, lean meats and vegetables and not ready made microwaveable dinners loaded with saturated fats and sodium. Lastly, take it easy on the brewskis while watching football on Sunday afternoons.
5: Have well defined goals and stick to them – Some folks head to the gym during the winter as a way to stay in shape. But when they get there they just hop on a machine or two or spend a few minutes sampling different free weights before splitting. While you’re to be applauded for being aware that your summer body is built on your winter habits the fact is this buffet-style approach to exercise won’t do you a lot of good. Always enter the gym with a goal in mind and a plan in place regarding how you’re going to achieve that goal. If you haven’t let things slip to the point that you’ve begun to put on weight and lose muscle mass there’s no need to engage in manic high intensity interval training. But you’ll still want to have a routine laid out that is progressive and provides metabolic benefits while helping you maintain your overall conditioning. If things have slid a bit and you’ve already packed on a few pounds discuss the situation with one of the trainers at the gym. They’ll work with you to develop a workout schedule that will allow you to lose the weight and keep it off. Just remember that a bit of random exercise is essentially no better than no exercise. In fact it may be worse. Because if you’re not in the best of shape and simply jumping on machines or picking up dumbbells willy-nilly you stand a pretty good chance of injuring yourself.
6: Get Enough Sleep – A lack of sleep can trigger weight gain since it can lead to a disruption of hormone levels. That, in turn, can trigger food cravings and weight gain. Just because people are indoors most of the time from November to March it doesn’t mean they’re getting enough sleep. Quite the contrary in many cases. That’s because the short days of winter can disrupt a person’s circadian rhythms which can lead to insomnia and lots of late nights watching the snow fall outside the window instead of sleeping. Keep in mind too that if you’re having trouble getting to sleep science says that e-book you’re reading to put you out isn’t helping. Studies have shown that the light from an eReader can actually have a negative effect on sleep duration and quality. And one more thing: having an espresso to jumpstart an evening workout may also backfire later when you can’t get to sleep.
The summer body you want isn’t just going to happen as soon as the warm weather sets in. It’s going to be built on the work you do while the snow is deep and the roads are iced over. Take the above tips to heart and hit the slopes, break out the skates or pick up some resistance bands. You’ll stand a great chance of emerging from hibernation in spring looking your best while everyone else is ruing their layer of winter fat and dreading the work ahead of them.