Many Chicagoans will agree that Windy City winters are anything but sympathetic. After a long day at work, battling frigid temps during the nightly commute and then finally thawing out on the couch, the idea of confronting the cold again to hit the gym may seem like a nightmare — not to mention the thought of being outside soaked in sweat!
However, keeping up with your fitness regimen and avoiding the winter slump is critical. Once you begin falling out of your normal schedule, the harder it can be to find the motivation to get back on. In fact, there are even benefits to working out in the cold.
Embrace the cold!
Although cold weather often deters people from doing too many outdoor activities, getting outside and taking advantage of the winter days the sun makes an appearance can keep you on track and even help ease the winter blues.
According to a 2010 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, many Americans have vitamin D deficiency, the vitamin you get from sun exposure. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with seasonal affective disorder, which is a form of depression that usually begins in the fall and ends in the spring. SAD symptoms include fatigue, irritability, feeling sad or anxious and having difficulty concentrating. This form of depression, in addition to numerous negative health effects, can make finding the motivation to exercise very difficult.
To ensure you get enough of the sun’s medicine, bundle up and look for workouts you can do outside. Going on runs or power walks are great outdoor winter workouts, and finding friends to come along will make them even more enjoyable.
(Image courtesy of Nike Chicago)
Snow sports like downhill or cross-country skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing present fun social opportunities for high intensity full body workouts. If you dress properly, you’ll generate enough body heat that the cold won’t be a problem after just a few minutes!
Unfortunately, it is a common misconception that people burn more calories in the cold. While you will burn extra calories if your body temperature drops and you start to shiver, dressing appropriately combined with the body heat you build during aerobic activity will likely prevent this drop from occurring.
Take refuge in heated classes
Studios that crank up the heat provide an escape from the cold, promote increased flexibility and extra sweating.
While heated classes certainly warm and help loosen your muscles, most health experts agree that these classes, such as hot yoga, don’t lend participants any additional physical benefits.
“The benefits are largely perceptual,” Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise told The Huffington Post. “People think the degree of sweat is the quality of the workout, but that’s not reality. It doesn’t correlate to burning more calories.”
While increased sweating due to higher temperatures doesn’t equate to a higher caloric burn, getting a good sweat in a warm environment is a suitable reprieve in the winter. However, it is critical to drink water before and stay hydrated during hot classes. Pay attention to any danger signs of overheating in yourself as well as the other people in the class.
“Dizziness, headache, lightheadedness, mild nausea and muscle cramps are the indicators that you’re not tolerating that heat,” Dr. Bryant explained. “You need to remove yourself from that environment and get into air conditioning.”
Also, to avoid turning into a sweat popsicle after leaving a heated classes, towel off and change into a fresh set of clothes.
Invest in at-home workouts
With thousands of workout videos available On Demand, on YouTube, DVD and magazines, working out without having to leave your home has never been easier (check out Jeana’s at-home, high intensity workout here).
While your house and the sight of your couch probably doesn’t offer the same motivational push as your gym or favorite studio, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan for when those cold-fronts hit.
A yoga mat, hand weights and jump rope are handy tools, and are often suggested for at-home workouts. Personally, music can make or break my workout, so crafting a good playlist is essential. Keep yourself pumped up with some good tunes, and you’ll be set.