Winter workouts: 6 tips to stay on track

You managed to stay on-point with your workouts all summer, and even enjoyed staying active through the crisp days of autumn. But with cold and dark winter days fast approaching, do you have what it takes to winterize your workouts and stay on track

Whether winter means strapping on your cold-weather gear or heading indoors to the gym, Sharon Zarabi, fitness trainer and registered dietitian at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City said with the right tools, falling snow doesn’t have to mean falling off the fitness wagon.

Stay motivated

With cold weather and early sunsets, most agree the hardest part of sticking to a workout schedule in the winter is staying motivated. Zarabi tells it doesn’t take much to make exercising part of your routine.

“The simplest things like downloading a new song you like on your iPod or bringing your workout gear to work can help,” she said. “Getting a buddy can make you feel accountable, or you can track your workout with fitness apps that show you improvement over time to keep your confidence up.”

Get the right gear

Not having the right gear can be detrimental to any workout, especially during winter months with unpredictable weather. Zarabi said being prepared is the best way to ensure you don’t have an excuse to give up mid-workout.

“If you are running or hiking outdoors, you should be looking for a specific shoe with good traction to avoid any slipping,” she said. “I recommend getting a running expert to test what kind of sneaker you need.”

For clothing, Zarabi suggests wearing light layers and investing in good quality fabrics that wick away sweat so you can stay feeling warm and dry throughout your workout.

“You also need to wear gloves if it is cold outside because blood flow to the extremities decreases in the cold. You can even buy shirts with gloves attached directly to the sleeves,” she said.

Dark afternoons and evenings in the winter can be dangerous if you are running near the road, so it’s important to wear light colors or reflective clothing.

Avoid injury

Exercising in cold temperatures can increase the risk of injury. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, an average of more than 440,000 people are treated for winter sports-related injuries in the United States every year.

Zarabi said many cold-weather injuries can be avoided with the correct tools.

“You always want to start with a warm-up, so the muscles can get blood flow,” she said. “As far as stretching, there is research both ways about whether is it better to stretch before or after working out, but I always say stretch a little before and a little after to prevent any injury to the joints.”

In addition to warming up and stretching, Zarabi said drinking enough water ensures the muscles function optimally, making you less prone to injury.

Keep it outdoors

There are many cold weather alternatives to traditional workouts that don’t just include running or cycling. Zarabi said interval training is a great way to get a good workout while still being able to enjoy the outdoors.

“You can do pushups on the ground, and also squats while adding little bits of cardio intervals, like high knees in between to give you a well rounded workout,” she said. “It allows you to burn more calories in a short amount of time.”

If you’re a runner, Zarabi suggests switching it up with lateral muscle movements like running backward or sideways in a shuffle, or adding sprints.

“Intervals make it fun and more challenging on the body. I always tell my patients that they don’t need to join a gym to get a good workout,” she said. “Using their own body weight for strength training and doing cardio intervals are things they can easily do outdoors and it breaks up the monotony.”

Move it inside

If cold weather isn’t for you, that doesn’t mean you have to be tied to the treadmill until spring. Zarabi said you can move your workout indoors and get the same fitness benefits.

“Sometimes people assume the only thing to do indoors is the treadmill, and they get bored easily,” she said. “You can add variety by doing two minutes on the treadmill, then on the bike and the stair climber, then do some weights. Circuit training helps the body feel motivated because you are working different muscle groups.”

Signing up for fitness classes can be a great way to add something new to your routine, or focusing on strength training, she said.

Set a goal

No matter what exercise route you choose this winter, Zarabi said keeping your sights on a goal is crucial for success.

“Whether it’s wearing a bikini for vacation or preventing weight gain during the holidays, you have to make a goal,” she said. “No matter what the season is or what your condition is, you can get some form of exercise.”