Don’t let cold or snow stop you for exercising outdoors.
If winter gets you down, one of the best remedies is to go outdoors in sunlight and move. Wouldn’t it be great if a forecast of snow or a cold snap made your heart sing? Moving your body in a winter landscape has a unique magic — at once invigorating and peaceful.
Fancy ski vacations are alluring, but if you must choose, you’ll probably be happier if you make outdoor winter exercise a part of your life beyond vacations. Ice skating, cross-country skiing and snow shoeing are much cheaper and easily available in some parts of the United States.
A word about cold: the key to a good day is your clothing. Never exercise outdoors in cold weather wearing jeans, cotton T-shirts, or cotton socks. When cotton is wet, it gets heavy and you’ll be colder. Invest in silk or synthetic long underwear, a layer of fleece or wool, and a waterproof windbreaker.
Asthma sufferers: keep a face mask, scarf, or balaclava handy to cover up your mouth. Dry air can trigger symptoms. You’ll be safe if you moisten the air you breathe in with your exhale.
Don’t overdress. You shouldn’t feel toasty in the first five minutes outdoors. You can count on warming up as you move, and should eventually remove your hat and unzip your jacket. Sweat will make you colder later.
Ice Skating. You don’t need a special outfit, just avoid cotton. Wear synthetic leggings over silk or synthetic long underwear. When you rent skates, take your time finding the right size. Most skate rinks have rubber matting you can walk on. Walk a bit (with the skate guards on) to establish your center of gravity. When you get on the ice, walk around the inside, holding the wall. You can learn to balance by experimenting. Have a friend or instructor teach you how to stop, fall, and stand up again.
Cross-country skiing and snow shoeing. In snowy areas, you’re likely to find trails or open land in a golf course or park. Once you learn the sport, you can bring your own equipment (much cheaper and manageable than downhill ski boots and skis) and play outside during the week or weekend. For an excursion, check out any place where you hike. Farms, downhill ski resorts, or state parks may groom the trails, rent out equipment, and provide lessons. Again, if you skip a formal lesson, make sure you know how to stop, fall, and stand up afterwards.
Both activities are good for seniors: gentle on the knees, while boosting balance and strengthening the legs and buttock muscles.
Downhill ski bunnies: be bold, surprise your friends and family, and try cross-country for a change. You’re probably get a more aerobic workout, since you won’t be spending time waiting for a lift. Cross-country trails are also likely to give you a more intimate experience of the mountain. Once You’re past the beginner stage, you’ll be able to weave between trees and alongside frozen ponds and streams. Nature enhances the mood boost from exercise, according to a Stanford study. Do get a lesson, even if you’re an experience skier. You’ll need to unlearn some of your habits.
Use your poles, and you’ll get a full-body workout, with more calorie burn per hour.
Hikers: You’ll be using your muscles differently, so even if you’re used to spending two or more days in a row on the trail, you’ll have to work up on skis or snow shoes.
For all outdoor winter sports, it’s important to remember to drink. You might not notice sweat, but become dehydrated. Bring dark chocolate and nuts in a backpack. If you’re out on a trail, keep track of the time and nightfall. Bring your cell phone, but you may not have reception. Also bring a buddy!
January 16, 2017
Janet O’Dell, RN