Don’t be stagnant! By Colin Anderson
During our beautiful Northwest summers, it’s rather easy to stay active. It’s rare that stormy weather lasts for more than a couple days and, even in the biggest heat waves, there are places in which to take a swim and cool off. It’s also easier to engage in accidental exercise activities such as mowing the lawn, taking the dogs for a walk, kicking a soccer ball or shooting hoops with the kids, or just a leisurely stroll along the water with a friend. While there are some who look forward to the cold of winter, many others retreat to their couches and beds, gorging on streaming services until the cold dissipates and it’s fun to go outside again.
While it’s comforting to curl up in a blanket with snacks and warm drinks, the body craves movement. It might take a little more effort in the winter, but staying active will help keep both your mind and body right, and also lead you into the active summer lifestyle so many of us enjoy.
Many people join a gym in January as part of their resolution to get in shape or drop unwanted pounds. Where options were once pretty limited, there are a number of specialty fitness gyms that cater to a multitude of interests and ability levels. A traditional gym is a good place to start, as it contains a large amount of equipment for both endurance and strength building. Treadmills, ellipticals and bikes, free weights and muscle-targeting machines allow you to choose your own adventure when keeping active. Most health clubs employ a personal training staff that can help create a personalized fitness plan for you based upon your goals. Each also has a variety of classes from yoga and spin to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and dance.
If you’ve tried the gym before with limited success, perhaps a smaller, more targeted approach can work for you. CrossFit gyms, as well as cycle, HIIT and yoga studios offer smaller spaces and often more attention from training staff. Participants encourage each other to succeed, making for a fun and rewarding experience. Many will let you try a class for free and offer various levels of membership from unlimited to a few sessions per month.
Working out at home has also come a long way. You can spend many thousands of dollars on top-of-the-line exercise bikes, home gyms and group training courses, but, if your budget is limited, there are nearly infinite home workout videos available on YouTube and other platforms. Just pick up a few free weights and a mat, and you are good to go.
One simple way to fight the winter bulge is doing small blocks of exercise while watching your favorite show. If you have an exercise bike, take a seat and pedal slowly through the entire movie—you’ll be surprised how many calories you’ll burn without breaking a serious sweat. Watching your favorite sports team for a few hours? Consider doing block exercises during the commercial breaks. Rotate through pushups, squats, lunges and sit-ups during commercials, and go back to lounging when the game resumes.
While fitness is an individual goal, having a partner creates a sense of accountability for both parties. Grab a friend or loved one and make a plan to meet for a certain class, go for a long walk, or even just have them send you a friendly text reminder (or a post-it note on your mirror) each day to do something active. It’s easier to make excuses for yourself, but when someone else is counting on you and holding you accountable, it’s much harder to skip knowing you’ll disappoint them.
There are also plenty of winter accidental exercise opportunities available that are both fun and memorable. You can strap into a pair of skates and take a few laps around an area ice rink. Your kids enjoy sledding, so why not trudge up and down the hill a few times and slide down with them; they’ll love you for it. Even getting outside in the rain to splash in puddles or building a snowman or snow fort in the backyard, will engage the muscles and burn a few extra calories. While being careful not to overexert, clear snow from your driveway and sidewalk and help out a neighbor or two with theirs.
A day on the slopes is also a great way to enjoy the beauty of our area while getting the heart rate up for a few hours. There are places for every level of skier or snowboarder, and many have tubing hills as well. Cross-country skiing works just about every muscle in your body, as well as endurance, and can be enjoyed at a leisurely sight-seeing pace or serious calorie burn. Snow-shoe trails are another great way to get in a few extra steps while taking in the natural beauty of the area.
Like all exercise, the toughest part about exercise in the winter is committing to do it. An added bonus to winter outdoor activity is the body tends to burn even more calories, as not only are your muscles and lungs engaged in activity, but your body is also using energy to keep warm.
While we yearn for the wonderful warm spring and summer days of a round of golf, jogging and playing outside, let’s not forget to keep ourselves fit so we can enjoy all those wonderful activities as soon as the cold clears and the flowers bloom.