Karen Myhre, M.D.
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Winter can be a challenging time for people who enjoy exercising outside. Dark mornings are followed by even darker evenings. And then there’s the cold, cold, cold.
But there are ways to endure this time of year without letting your fitness goals go into hibernation:
- Schedule around it. If dealing with the dark and cold seem like too much, try scheduling around it. If there’s flexibility with your work schedule, spend the darker hours of the day in the office, then take a midday exercise break to enjoy some daylight and slightly warmer temperatures.
- Brace for it. Winter is cold. There’s no getting around it. Sometimes just accepting that fact and dressing accordingly is all it takes to push through that mental barrier. Also, focus on the warmth you know you’ll feel once you get moving.
You can add extra heat with hand/toe warmers. Money saving tip: Because they’re air activated, you can reuse hand/toe warmers by putting them in a plastic baggie when you’re done.
- Embrace it. Some recreational activities can only be performed on snow and ice. Use this time of year to take advantage of skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating opportunities. Many races and events occur all winter long to give you a goal to work toward.
- Make a scene. If you have to exercise in the dark, make sure to stay safe by being visible. Wear light-colored clothing or a reflective vest. Lightweight headlamps and flashlights also help you to see and be seen.
- Exercise with others. Knowing a buddy is waiting for you outside or planning on taking an exercise class with you holds you accountable. Getting out of bed on these dark and cold mornings is easier when someone is counting on you.
- Fresh air is good. We tend to be inside so much in the colder months that we forget how good it is to go outside for a short time each day. Kids in a school playground are good role models: outside recess is rarely cancelled. They play in all conditions, and so should we!
It can seem like forever before the cold weather finally abates and the ease of warm weather exercise resumes. Until then, keep reminding yourself, “Spring is just around the corner.”