An insider's guide to winter exercise

Washington PostFebruary 3, 2014 

  • Your winter workout tips

    We asked you for your best tricks for getting in your workout even though the weather outside isn’t cooperating. Here are some of our favorites. We’ll print more cold weather exercise tips next week.

    •  Get a dog. That’s the advice from several readers who are pulled out of bed each morning for mandatory walks. Mary Beth Hardie of Cary walks at 6 each weekday morning with her neighbor and their dogs. Even when bad weather makes it hard to get up, Hardie says knowing the dogs have to go out no matter what is enough to get her going. Plus, there’s the guilt of knowing if she doesn’t, her neighbor has to walk alone. She rewards herself by sleeping in on weekends. Debbie Hayek of Youngsville said her two 10-year-old terriers are her alarm clock, waking her at 6 a.m. to get up and out. Hayek and a neighbor also take early exercise classes at the Wake Forest Senior Center. She says the classes are fun and that helps motivate her to go.

    •  Get a buddy. As Hardie touched on above, if you don’t have a four-legged friend to exercise with, a human companion will work just as well. Liz Riley of Raleigh suggests finding workout buddies who want to do the same types of workouts at the same time as you (maybe an early morning runner, or a lunchtime gym partner) and exercise together. “It’s amazing how much support you get from people who are looking out for you, and I am also looking out for them,” she said.

    •  Plan ahead. Bridget Hay of Raleigh likes to run, but admits it’s harder for her when days are gloomy. So she tracks the weather, and when gloomy mornings are in the forecast, she plans runs with friends instead of running alone. She calls it “making your own sunshine.” On days when the weather just doesn’t cooperate at all, Hay’s Plan B is an indoor workout like yoga (she uses yoga videos on YouTube).

    •  Treat yourself. Barbara Cleary of Raleigh says when it’s extra hard to get out on dreary mornings, she promises herself a healthy treat from the market near her gym – after her workout, though. On the mornings when exercise just isn’t in the cards, Cleary said she always makes time for some kind of inside exercise after work.

So you resolved to lose weight, to get stronger or maybe just to fit in those recommended 30 minutes of daily activity. The start of the year always brings a rush of motivation, but also freezing temperatures, slushy sidewalks, slippery roads and a strong urge to stay indoors. Is it possible to stay on track while enjoying the warmth and comfort of your own home? Trainer Tim Bruffy of Washington, D.C., has a few ideas.

1 Make commercial breaks count.

It’s tempting to sit down in front of the TV when you get home. But you can watch your favorite show while getting a workout. Put together a circuit workout of simple strength exercises: squats, push-ups, sit-ups, etc., and “make it a commitment every commercial break to knock out a circuit,” Bruffy says. Choose a number of repetitions that’s comfortable for you (five to 10) and see how many sets you can do in a commercial break. A 30-minute show will probably have less than 10 minutes of commercials, so keep the intensity up.

2 Cardio doesn’t have to mean running.

Your cardio routine at the gym might be limited to the treadmill or elliptical machine, but there are more ways to give your heart a workout. “I would think of cardio in terms of heart-rate zones,” Bruffy says. Regardless of the activity, if the intensity is high enough, you’re working your heart, too. Combine strength exercises (planks, push-ups, dips, crunches) and more traditional cardio exercises such as jumping jacks or running in place.

3 Get creative.

Most people don’t keep barbells at home. So if you want to add resistance training to your workout, you might have to think outside the box. A gallon of milk weighs about eight pounds. A can of soup? About a pound. What other strength-training tools do you have lying around the house?

4 Practice your I’s, T’s and Y’s.

After sitting all day at work, this exercise can help fix that hunched posture while strengthening your shoulders: Lie on your back, starting with your arms by your sides. Then use your arms to make the letters I, T and Y (sort of like the “YMCA” dance). The American Council on Exercise recommends holding each position for 15 to 30 seconds and performing two to four cycles. It’s another good one for a commercial break.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service