Sunday, November 29, 2009

Exercising in the Rain and Cold

I know it is hard when you look out at the cold dreary dark damp day and have to think about how you are going to get out there and exercise, but weather is no excuse to get lazy!

If you prefer to exercise outside then you might have to make some adjustments to your program, but unless you are in below 20 degree weather conditions, you should still be able to accomplish your goals, or at least maintain your current level of fitness through the winter, while getting fresh air.

If you absolutely refuse to go out in the wind and rain then you still have no excuses, as I will share some easy fitness ideas for indoors too!

Lets start with the beautiful outdoors. Often the hardest part of exercising outside in the winter is just getting out the door. The rain almost always looks much worse from the comfort of your warm cozy living room. Once you are out there, however, it is surprising just how refreshing a little rain can be.

You should definitely invest in appropriate clothes tailored to your activity of choice (Mountain Equipment Coop in Victoria is a great place to start, or your local running or athletic store). A good rain jacket, shoes/boots and a pair of gloves and toque are all essentials. Layering is a really great idea, as you will be amazed how quickly you warm up once you get going on a hike, run or even a brisk walk.

The next step is to find a buddy to work out with. It is so much easier to get out the door if you know someone is going to be suffering along with you! Find a friend, neighbor, coworker, or family member and set a schedule. Make it an appointment, write it on the calendar, and be there. Your health is a serious matter, and shouldn’t be canceled on a whim because someone else calls and invites you for coffee – tell them you have an appointment that can’t be canceled.

Darkness doesn’t cut it as an excuse either. My husband has a light on a headband, and he goes out and runs the lake after dark. It takes a bit of getting used to, but he finds it quite exhilarating. If that doesn’t sound like fun to you (I am scared of the dark, and would be huddled in the bushes crying if I tried the headlamp thing), then find an area that is well lit. Some tracks stay lit into the evenings, and there is nothing wrong with a 20 minute jog around the track, followed by a few reps up and down the bleachers. Many neighborhoods are also well lit, and if yours is not then drive to one that is!

If you really don’t like going out after dark, then set up a circuit in your back yard, or have a family game of soccer – you will be soaked and laughing and muddy and having the time of your lives! Use whatever is available – rest your hands against the doghouse and do pushups, run or walk up and down the stairs, do lunges across the lawn, play catch, whatever you can think of!

We are blessed on the coast with temperatures mild enough to be able to exercise outside year round, but if you are not so fortunate, it doesn’t take much to get a decent workout inside the comfort of your own home.

Obviously you can purchase fitness equipment such as treadmills and weights to use at home, or purchase a gym membership, but I want to tell you about some things you can do for free with no equipment at all, and start right now!

Stairs are a favorite of mine – walk or jog up and down the stairs for 15 minutes, or during commercial breaks of your favorite program. Stairs are also great for doing calf raises and incline pushups on.

Do animal walks down your hallway – on all fours like a bear, and then on all fours on your back like a crab. These are full body workouts that get your heart pumping, but you might feel funny doing them anywhere but at home where no one can see!

Try some good old jumping jacks, squats, lunges, pushups and situps. Even 10 minutes of activity helps maintain fitness levels, so don’t think that because you can’t do an hour that it isn’t worth it. Every little bit adds up.

That is seriously all you need to get your heart pumping, break into a sweat, and keep you healthy over the winter, but you have to do it!