Winter Workout Tips

Megan Richard (left), and her sisters Mackenzie and Morgan enjoy the winter weather in MacDonald Gardens Park in Ottawa. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)

As the weather turns nasty getting motivated to exercise can be difficult, if not impossible. Staying fit and exercising throughout the winter months is a great way to fight the cold and battle those seasonal blahs.

Even the pros have trouble getting motivated when it's cold.

"Not many want to go running when it's -20 outside, including myself. Also, I truly believe that we all go into a hibernation mode when the winter starts and days are short," says certified athletic therapist, Russell Gunner.

He suggests these winter workout tips to keep you moving all year long:

  • Make sure you dress warmly and layer properly. You can warm up quickly and one layer can make a big difference.
  • Partake in winter sports (skiing, skating, snow shoeing, hiking, etc.). But even going sledding with the kids can be quite an exercise (try pulling a sled up a hill 20 times).

Keep the following checklist in mind:

  1. Plan accordingly with weather conditions.
  2. Dress and layer properly (lightweight, wicking fibres like fleece or wool).
  3. Protect your extremities (socks and gloves specifically for winter exercises).
    A good hat (40% of heat loss is through the head).
  4. Start slow into your work-out to let your muscles warm-up (if necessary warm-up exercises inside before heading out).
  5. Do your cool down stretches inside where it is warmer.

Personal trainer Bruce Krahn agrees it can be difficult to be active during the chilly months. "It comes as no surprise that physical activity is lower in the winter than in other seasons. While going to a gym is great, there are a number of activities that Canadians can do at home or outside when the weather isn't cooperating," he offers.

Check out his top ten tips for keeping fit in the winter:

  1. Begin a "bodyweight only" exercise routine. There are hundreds of exercises that can be performed in the comfort of your living room. Various forms of pushups, skipping, lunges, squats, step ups, etc can be used to make up a very effective workout.
  2. Buy an exercise DVD and workout when you come home from work.
  3. Take up a winter activity such as snow shoeing or skiing. Pick an activity you enjoy or one that you can do with others (for moral support).
  4. Squeeze in some activity at work. Take the stairs. Use an exercise band on your break. Do this every day and you will be amazed by the results.
  5. Exercise while you watch television.
  6. Set goals. Decide on what/when and how often you will exercise and strive to achieve that goal.
  7. Dress appropriately. Layered clothing is best as you can remove a layer as your body heats up. Use a fitted inner layer of clothing that pulls moisture away from the skin, a soft, warm middle layer and finally use an outer layer that will block wind and permit evaporation of moisture.
  8. Don't forget your hat! We lose a large percentage of heat through our heads so put a lid on it!
  9. Proper footwear is essential. Whether you are exercising inside or in the outdoors always choose the right footwear for the conditions. Make sure your shoes have ankle support and sufficient traction for ice and snow.
  10. Schedule your workouts into your day timer. Decide on what and when you are going to do the day before. Don't just "wing it". Make exercise part of your daily routine and have an alternative exercise in mind in case the weather forces a change of plans.

How do you stay active when the temperature drops?

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