Fitness and Training – How to Modify Your Training Regimen for Winter

Does winter have a way of shutting down your training regimen? With a little thought and planning, you can stay active through the cold, shorter days of this season, and keep fit to pick up outdoor activities when spring rolls back around.

Winter can really put a crimp in many people’s fitness regimen. Combined with holiday foods and sweets and the mammal’s seeming compulsion to add some layers of fat for the season, winter inactivity can have an adverse effect on a person’s health, and is very likely to make an ordeal out of the work of resuming sports, fitness and outdoor activity when the calendar turns back toward spring.

If you’re a walker, runner or cyclist, you might be dreading the shorter days and colder temperatures, not to mention the possibility of snow and ice on streets and greenways. Here are some suggestions for adapting your exercise life to the turning of the seasons.

Move it indoors: runners and cyclists can move to indoor track, treadmill and stationary cycles when it’s too dark or cold for outdoor exertion. If you think you can’t get a good workout on a stationary bike, try a spin class – there are lots to choose from, and they will keep your pedal power stoked up for road cycling. Indoor pools provide swimming or water aerobic classes to help runners stay in condition without the impact and monotony of treadmill or indoor track. Elliptical training machines also offer a low-impact alternative to treadmills, as do stair climbers and rowing apparatus. Outdoor walkers should check with their local shopping mall or recreation center, where winter time walking clubs are a great way to get in some miles, while protected from the elements.

Some bicycle athletes, notably past Olympic champions Beth Heiden and her brother Eric, doubled as speed skaters in the winter. If you’re not a competitor at that level, lessons in hockey or figure skating, even ice dancing for couples, can help maintain tone and strength in the core muscles and especially the leg muscles that provide pedal power. Some summer road runners switch to the challenge of trail running in winter, although you may need to acquire special equipment, such as high rise shoes with anti-slip cleats on the soles.

If you’re determined to stay on the road or the trail, it’s important to dress for colder, darker and more slippery conditions. When running or cycling wear light layers of wicking material, and a windproof shell of GoreTex or similar breathable water resistant material. Winter wind chill is hard on the skin, the lungs and the sinuses, so wear gloves, and cover your face and ears as much as practical with a cowl or balaclava. Most running shoes are designed for warm weather, with mesh uppers that let the cold in. Shoes designed for trail running have warmer toe design, and much more robust tread on the soles, to help you keep your footing when it’s wet, snowy or icy on the street or path. Because so much athletic gear is dark colored, add a vest with bright stripes and reflective patches, to make certain that you can be seen by oncoming vehicles.

Those are just some of the ways to keep your fitness regime going through the winter; here’s hoping you’ll power through the dark and cold months and return to warm weather in the same top condition you strive for all summer.