Stay Fit in Arctic Temperatures
The cold is no joke. In a 2015 study in the British Journal, The Lancet, as reported by USA Today, the number of cold-related deaths compared to heat-related deaths worldwide was much higher. The cold kills 20 times more people than heat! The number was approximately 5.4 million in 2015, and, yes, some of them came from people unprepared for training in the cold. Follow these tips to help keep safe, and burn some calories.
Choose Your Activities
The biggest step in staying fit when it’s cold outside is not what to wear when you go out (but it is important, we’ll get to that later) or what food or drink you consume, it’s what activity you want to accomplish. Everyone, and we mean EVERYONE stays fit in different ways. Even if two people work out in a gym to stay fit, chances are they don’t do the same exercises at the same reps at the same speed on the same days.
We are unique. Therefore, pick your personal category. If you are a runner, you will most likely want to run, and a treadmill indoors just doesn’t cut it. If you like team sports, well, learning to play hockey, while awesome for some, isn’t on most people’s lists. If you like doing bodyweight exercises in the park near you when things are warm and nice outside, that’s cool too.
Inside vs. Outside
We are mostly going to talk about outside training here, as inside can be year-round, but there are a few things you should know about either. First, inside training has its benefits, but its pitfalls as well.
First, well, it’s not outside! Some of us are freaks for being out in nature (read: the author) and for others it doesn’t matter that much. If you are into team sports, this is one of the only options in wintertime. Chances are, even if you were willing to get outside to try to play soccer on a cleaned off field, you would have a hard time finding 19 other players. So indoor facilities it is for you!
Today, in just about every city of note, there are indoor facilities for all team sports, including indoor soccer, flag football, tennis, you name it. Notable exceptions of team sports outside are the aforementioned hockey (and all of the variations, of which there are quite a few), bandy, which is the 2nd most popular outdoor winter team sport in the world, and a few others. We happen to LOVE Yukigassen, which is Japanese for “competitive snowball fight.” There’s an idea for a team league just waiting to happen.
Outside, though, you are mostly limited to yourself and your own determination. Skiing and snowboarding are great, as are other activities of that ilk, but they require actually getting to a destination, and are not really everyday training regimens. One thing that you can do in winter is BE CREATIVE. There are a zillion things you can do which normally do not register on people’s fitness radars.
Chances are, if you are in a place with really cold temperatures, you are going to have snow, and a decent amount of it. If you do, you have the most amazing Rocky workout imaginable waiting for you. Here are four activities that are calorie crushers and muscle builders all at the same time. Just remember to follow through to the end of the article to read up on how to stay
safe while doing these activities.
Run Run Run
You can run. Through the snow. Sounds pretty simple, right? Wrong. This is a super hard activity, and it really builds up your leg muscles. We have talked to marathon runners that begin to fail after 5 or 10 minutes of doing this activity.
Why suggest it then? Because you can build up to it. One of the best places you can do this is in your local forest. Pick a trail, and blaze it. Work up to it by walking your first time.
You will need high quality winter gear that is light, waterproof, and traps heat pretty well. Remember, you can always unzip your collar a bit, but you can’t make a jacket keep you warmer if it’s not good enough. You will also need some hiking boots, rather than running shoes. The more uneconomical your movement, the more calories you are expending every step. So if it seems like it is taking forever and you aren’t making that much forward progress but you ARE breathing hard and it’s taking a lot of energy, GREAT! That means you are having a great workout and you will probably be burning a lot more calories than you do in summertime!
Shovel snow. You think, “Really?,” but this activity is both useful and burns a heck of a lot of calories. Get a good snow shovel, and go to town. Driveway, your neighbors’ driveways, the sidewalk near you, the path in the local park, part of the local school parking lot, wherever. This is a full body exercise, which involves arms, legs, back, glutes and even your facial muscles (because we assume after a while you WILL be grimacing!). This activity has the added benefit of endearing yourself to the people around you—so double-bonus points!
Outside Gyms: Still Useful
No one says that outside gym isn’t still going to be useful. The only difference might be that you need to carry a small brush and towel with you, and you will need some full-fingered workout gloves instead of the half-finger ones. These gyms are pretty much indestructible, and are super useful even in wintertime.
Make sure, though, you take a slightly longer break between sets. Catching your breath in cold weather is harder to do, and your muscles and lungs need just a tiny bit longer to recharge between sets. Make sure you clean off the machines and bars very well, and check everywhere for ice buildup. It wouldn’t do to be halfway through a chin-up and slip off the bar.
Build Snow Things
This one is kind of awesome, and brings out the kid in you again. If you happen to already have kids, then you know what this is like. Otherwise, build yourself an igloo. Check out this great article about it on Instructables. Make a snowman. Build an icewall. Whatever comes to your imagination, build it. This is another activity that is uncommon, but uses not only your entire body (you have to routinely get down, get snow, transport it, pack it, rinse and repeat) but it also forces you to use your mind as well. Awesome activity, and burns hardcore calories.
One of the biggest challenges of outside activities is staying safe. Try to breathe through your nose as much as possible. Much more heat is lost breathing through your mouth than through the nose, and you could even have an asthmatic response if you are breathing too hard through your mouth.
Remember that your body’s pulse rate will naturally be higher as well, as the body’s response is to have a higher pulse to move blood faster and get more warmth everywhere. So make sure you are not using quite the same intensity as you would in spring. Make sure your warm weather gear is also wicking, if possible. You WILL sweat, and in the cool down phase, you want to make sure that you have a pretty dry layer against your skin, or you could develop hypothermia.
If you are doing indoor fitness training, you should also remember that it is not okay, no matter how much of a hurry you are in, to go directly outside after finishing your workout. If possible, take a lukewarm shower, and make sure there is at least 10 to 15 minutes between your workout and heading outside. There have been many cases where people have gone into shock, or even had heart attacks, from not thermoregulating and/or not making sure they are bundled up enough to brave the temperatures outside, right after a hardcore workout.
Get out there, be safe, and enjoy the cold. You will find that once you get used to it, summertime will have you hankering for winter again for your cold weather training!