Good Advice: Staying Active When It's Cold Outside / by emily penn

Exercise is easy in the summer – we’re naturally more active, it’s more comfortable to be outside, we’re eating fresh fruits & veggies that give us lots of energy. The story of winter is a little different – the days are darker & colder & seemingly shorter, it’s so much cozier to be inside & easier to just… not go on a run. I used to let my exercise routine slack during the winter months, but I would always be upset with myself when spring rolled around. I would lose strength & flexibility, & always managed to put on a little winter pudge. My senior year of college I decided the cycle was going to be broken. When I went home for winter break I signed up for a boot camp class at my gym & not only did I not gain weight that winter, I actually lost weight & got stronger. Those classes also got me super into strength training, which over time has helped me lose a lot of weight, get stronger & stay more engaged in my workouts.


Since then I’ve learned a lot of ways to stay motivated during the winter, & I no longer suffer from the winter pudge. It also helps a lot with mood regulation. Winter lends itself to introspection & lower energy, plus we’re getting way less vitamin D. Often times our mood suffers. Keeping exercise a part of your life during the colder months ensures you get regular endorphin-hits, which keeps you feeling happier & having more energy for other things in your life.

Here are a few of my favorites ways to get moving:

1.     Interval Training

When it’s really cold outside going for a long run can be pretty uncomfortable – my ears usually start to hurt like a bad earache.  You might get a headache, & your fingers & toes can get uncomfortably numb. For running in the cold I suggest a quick interval run. In case you’re unfamiliar with Interval Training the general idea is that you do short bursts of intense activity followed by a period of rest. Interval training is super effective in burning fat & building aerobic strength, & increases metabolic activity for hours after your workout. I love it because there’s lots of ways to tweak this model so that it works for you & you can utilize it whether you’re jogging, cycling, swimming – anything. Interval workouts are also short in duration, so they’re easy to fit into a busy schedule.

I love to do Interval Runs in the winter because they’re short (less time outside!) & get the job done. Because you’re putting out maximum effort, it gets your heart pumping & your body temperature up quicker than a traditional run. So you hardly even get the chance to be cold! I love this 20-minute sequence – it wakes me up & makes me feel so awesome, I don’t even notice the chill in the air. I recommend wearing a watch or heart rate monitor that tracks seconds, or using the stopwatch feature on your phone.

Minute 0 – 5:00 : warm up jog
5:00 – 5:30 : sprint at about 90% of your maximum effort (should feel hard)
5:30 – 6:30 : walk at a quick pace
6:30 – 7:00 : sprint
7:00 – 8:00 : walk at a quick pace

Continue this sequence all the way up to about 20 minutes. You can do fewer intervals if you’re short on time, or more if you’re feeling good. Run smart - be safe & wear reflective/light up gear if you’re running in the early morning or at dusk, & be cautious of slippery patches on the sidewalk!

2.     Hot Yoga

This is arguably my favorite winter workout. When you just can’t shake the chill from your bones, an hour doing yoga in a heated room is like magic. You walk out feeling warm to the core & totally blissed out. Check your area for studios offering hot yoga classes. If you can’t find any hot yoga near you, regular yoga is still a wonderful winter workout. You generate a lot of body heat during yoga, & the practice is a little gentler & forces you to get in tune with how your body is feeling – a really nice thing for those more introspective winter months.

3.     Grab a Buddy & Bundle Up

Chances are you’re not the only one having trouble motivating yourself to exercise once the temperatures start to drop. Invite a friend to go for a walk or a hike with you. Wear lots of layers, hats, gloves, scarves, two pairs of socks & get moving! Talking to someone will distract from you from the cold. You’ll get the benefits of moving your body & connecting with someone you care about – twice as awesome!

4. Get Seasonal

Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing - awesome forms of exercise! If winter sports are your thing & they're available to you - go for it! Snowshoeing is about as seasonal as I get. It's a killer workout & so much fun!

4.     Set Up at Home

For the mornings when you really can’t get yourself up early to go to the gym, don’t just throw in the towel on your workout! There’s a lot you can do it home – even without any equipment. Just choose a small area where you can roll out a yoga mat if you have one. In our house, we have a yoga mat perma-rolled out in our second bedroom/office. Do some stretches, some power yoga poses, some lunges, squats, push-ups, sit ups, dance to some music – whatever feels good & whatever gets you moving! You’ll be surprised at how much better the rest of your day will feel if you can just dedicate 10 minutes in the morning to waking your body up with some movement.

It’s in our genetic makeup to hunker down in the winter – it used to be a matter of survival. Nowadays we will survive the winter even without hibernating, but it is natural to crave more sleep, more rest. Continuing to exercise through the winter is key in maintaining your health, especially if you have some goals you’re working on. That being said, it is important to listen to your body & honor its wishes when it really needs rest. There may be mornings when savoring a cup of tea or reading is going to feel more important than fitting in a workout – that is totally okay. Don’t forget to spend time nurturing your soul during this introspective season!

What’s your favorite way to work out in the winter?