Summer Is Over, Now What?
By Don Otis
For many of us, summer is filled with activity. We take vacations. We get outside. Then comes the fall and we scramble to fill our woodshed or prepare our garden for the dormant winter months. Aside from shoveling snow, our winter workouts consist of channel surfing or shivering to stay warm.
I lived and worked in North Idaho for fifteen years. When I first moved there from southern California, it was an adjustment. I spent many of my evenings at a gym, playing squash, swimming, running or lifting. Then I discovered running outside, even in the snow. I took an old pair of running shows and placed about eight short flat-headed screws around the parameter of the sole. The screws give traction on the snow and ice, a bit like having studded snow tires.
Another big hurdle to exercising outside in cold and snowy environments is the darkness. Running or walking after work is tough. If you can exercise during a lunch break, do it. If you exercise after dark, slow your pace and be sure to wear reflective clothing. If you typically use an iPod, get rid of it for these sessions outside.
The winter months are also a good time to reevaluate your fitness regimen. This is the time to try something new inside—a cycling or aerobics class, squash or racquetball, or swimming. I try to run outside a few days a week in the winter. During the other days of the week, I use an elliptical trainer or running machine.
If you exercise inside, boredom can easily set in. There are some mental tricks to help keep you from giving up or becoming stale. If you typically run or walk outside for 30-40 minutes, try dividing the overall time between two or three aerobic activities—a recumbent bike, stationary bike, elliptical, or treadmill. This is one way to do it. Another alternative is to change your pace or the incline on a treadmill. If you generally run or walk at a steady pace, do short intervals of a minute or two at a faster pace. This increases your workload while giving you breaks during exercise.
There is another thing that happens during winter months; most Americans gain weight. The extra fat keeps us warmer but it is also hard to lose come spring. To maintain your weight and conditioning in the winter, keep these tips in mind.
1. Watch what you eat between Thanksgiving and New Years.
2. Stay active even in inclement weather.
3. Get outside as much as possible.
4. Find an exercise partner or join an aerobics class.
5. Change up your workout routine.
Another consequence of the winter months is seasonal depression for some people. The shorter days and darkness often make us SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Regular exercise helps relieve these symptoms. It releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers. These act like opiates to produce a feeling of euphoria.
God has created our bodies to release stress through exercise. So let’s do it… even in the winter!
Don S. Otis is the author of Staying Fit After Forty and a personal trainer living in Canon City, Colorado. He can be reached at Don@veritasincorporated.com. © 2009