The winter has been pretty mild here in Connecticut this year. In fact we’ve had quite a few unseasonably warm days where it has gotten into the 50s, and one day it even hit 60. It’s easy to get out and exercise on days like that, but lets face it, there are still two solid months of winter left. Tell people you went for a walk when it was 10 degrees out and they’ll look at you like you’re crazy. But exercising throughout the winter is a great way to stave off those extra holiday pounds, stay in shape, and fend off the winter blues. So when the temps dip back down to where they are supposed to be this winter, here are some of my best tips for getting out there in the snow, ice, or sub-zero cold.
The first 10 minutes are hard
There’s no getting around this one, they are, and I’m no exception to the rule. When I first get outside I feel cold and I hate being cold! I don’t know anyone who really enjoys being cold… well my husband does but he’s from another planet so you can’t go by him lol. Trust me when I say just stick with it for 10 minutes. After about 10 minutes of activity I start to feel warm and before I know it, the cold air actually feels amazing on my face. I find myself enjoying whatever outdoor activity I’m doing. My mindset changes from “this sucks” to “this was a great idea”. Once you get out and moving, you won’t regret it. You’ll feel a million times better than if you just sat on the couch. Again. Plus people will think you are nuts for exercising in the cold and it will just make you feel that much more badass 😉 .
Get the right gear
You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to keep yourself warm. But investing on the right kind of gear is key to making being out in the cold weather more enjoyable. Here is what I have for the winter.
A few years back my husband bought me a Northface beanie that is lined with fleece for Christmas. I can’t remember what it cost, but it was definitely more than I would consider spending on a winter hat for myself. I wear this hat non-stop now. I am never cold with it on my head. I’ve even had to take it off when I am really working up a sweat. It was probably one of the best splurges he could have made for me. Many brands make similar lined hats. You can get them on sale, but in my opinion a nice warm hat is definitely splurge worthy. I also have a pair of ear muffs that I use when it’s not as cold but I still want my ears covered. I’ve had this pair from J. Crew for probably 10 years now. They were also worth the price!
I have a few nice scarves that I use if it is especially cold and windy. I don’t like the wind on the back of my neck and I also pull them up over my face if it’s super cold. Mine are both faux cashmere but are equally as warm and were half the price.
If you live in a climate where it’s extremely cold or windy I would suggest you get a face mask type cover. I have one I use for skiing as my husband likes to go to extreme places where it is always below zero with a windchill (Jay Peak anyone?). I can’t stand the wind on my face. The one I have goes around my neck and has a lip that comes up over my mouth and nose. I also use it for those particularly frigid days when I want to get out and walk the dog.
I have two pairs of nice gloves and they are actually both made for hunting. One pair I have is good for fall and early winter. They keep my hands warm and dry unless it goes below freezing. When the temps drop below freezing I have a thicker insulated pair of gloves my husband bought me that are also waterproof. If I am skiing I usually use a pair of waterproof mittens and put hand warmers inside.
I have a Northface Denali fleece and I also just purchased a down coat from L.L.Bean. Both have a hood. I think I now prefer the L.L. Bean coat as it is water resistant. I tested it out in Vermont when it was in the single digits and I was not cold at all. With layers under my Northface I am rarely cold but the fleece does get wet if it’s snowing a lot. You can find used coats on sites like Poshmark and Mercari or at a consignment shop if you don’t want to pay full price. L.L. Bean has great sales and I actually purchased mine on sale for $99 after Christmas this year.
You don’t have to get expensive ski pants, although I do pull mine out of my ski bag from time to time. Most of the time I wear my water resistant hiking pants with a pair of leggings or a base layer underneath. Before I had hiking pants I had a pair of those generic “swishy” pants everyone in the 90’s used to wear all the time. You know, the ones that zipped up the sides. Why 90’s why??? Well they do work, I will say that. Jeans will get wet and heavy and your legs will be freezing. Find yourself a pair of water resistant pants and your legs will thank you.
If your feet are always cold, like mine, invest in a good pair of wool socks. Yes real wool socks can be up to 20 dollars or more a pair but let me tell you they are worth it. If my feet are cold I might as well throw in the towel even if the rest of me is warm. Cold feet are literally one thing I cannot function with having. I wear wool socks everyday during the winter months and when I ski I have to use foot warmers in my boots. Do what works for you!
I have a pair of arctic Muck boots that are super warm, and L.L. Bean classic bean boots which I love. Both are waterproof and keep my feet warm and dry. I was actually surprised at how warm my bean boots keep my feet. Paired with thick wool socks, my feet are never cold. Tractor supply has sales on Muck boots from time to time and the L.L. Bean boots were reasonably priced (in my opinion) for a good pair of snow boots.
Yak Trax/ Ice grips:
It does help to have a set of ice grips for your boots, especially if you are just walking down your road. I find when I am out on a trail and have my snowshoes on I don’t have an issue with walking over ice because they have metal spikes on the bottom. Walking down an icy road with winter boots gets a little scary at times and the last thing I need is to fall. Ice grips have saved me many times. It’s not a bad idea to have a pair for winter walks.
Dress in layers
Always dress in layers if you are planning on exercising. I have made this mistake too many times. I hate being cold so I tend to overdress. I’ve had a few instances where I was too focused on how cold it was outside that I forgot to remember that working out makes you warm (duh!). If you are going for a long hike, walk, or snowshoe it’s nice to be able to take a layer off to cool down, and then put it back on again when you need it. I have read somewhere online that when dressing for cold weather exercise, you should feel slightly chilly before you begin your activity.
Go for a snow hike
It’s exactly what it sounds like. Before I had a pair of snowshoes I used to do this. Put on warm socks, boots, water resistant pants and go for a hike through the snow. I used to go to trail at a local state park I lived just down the road from. You will actually be surprised at how many people continue to walk on the trail even in the snow. After a storm the snow would be deep making for a hard resistance workout. After a few days of people walking the trails the snow would become packed down again and you could just walk along and enjoy the beautiful winter scenery.
Get a pair of snowshoes
Snowshoeing is one of my favorite things to do in the winter. It burns a ton of calories, and you get to enjoy the winter scenery. It does make walking through snow easier, but it’s still hard, and still an awesome workout. You don’t have to go on an established trail as they help you stay somewhat on top of the snow. You don’t have to get a top of the line pair either. I found a pair at my local Ocean State Job Lot for $39.00. Bonus: If you have a gravel driveway like we do, that turns into an ice luge, snowshoes will easily help you get to the mailbox, or to the chicken coop across the yard without falling.
A snow walk is simply taking a walk during a snow storm while the snow is falling. My dad used to take me on snow walks all the time when I was a child. Some of my fondest winter memories are of us walking around the block in the evening, watching the snow softly falling in the glow of the street lights, and taking in the quiet sound of the snowfall. There’s something really magical about it. If you live in a well lit neighborhood with sidewalks this can be a fun tradition to start with your kids as well. However this can be somewhat dangerous if you live on a road with no sidewalks like I do. You have to be extremely mindful, and I mean EXTREMELY mindful of plow trucks coming. Since our road has no sidewalks and it’s a pretty twisty rural road, I listen carefully and move to the other side if I see the plow coming.
Seriously though, don’t underestimate this one. Not only is it so much fun, hiking back up to the top of the hill is a great workout. You will make memories with your kids. If you don’t want to get in a sled or snow tube you can pull your kids around through the snow and it’s just as good of a workout. If you don’t have kids you can still go sledding. My brother and his girlfriend still go all the time. Honestly I think I’m going to leave Dakota home next time and go with them!
Try a winter sport
Downhill or cross county skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, or hockey are just a few things you can try that will get you out and active in the winter. My husband taught me to downhill ski a few years ago, and while I am not the best at it, I enjoy going with him. It’s a great workout and it’s a lot of fun, although it can get expensive. Next year I plan on getting cross country skis and trying it, as it’s an even harder workout, less dangerous (in my opinion), and cheaper. I’ve tried snowboarding once and couldn’t do it to save my life. Skating is not my strong suit but it is fun and it’s a great workout… once you get the hang of it. My brother and his girlfriend recently got into hockey and now love when it’s cold out and look forward to the winter season.
If all else fails
Get a crazy high maintenance dog that needs a daily walk like I did. I’m kidding, obviously, but seriously having a dog is the one thing that started getting me outside in the winter. When my husband and I were engaged, he moved in with me and so did his dog. I never had a dog before that so having to take a dog for walks was kind of a novel idea for me. Since I got home from work earlier than him it became my responsibility to take her out. I’ll never forget my husband telling me to just “bundle up and enjoy the outdoors”. Once I began taking her for walks I actually started to really enjoy it. When we got our current dog, Fawn, there was no way around it. She required a daily walk or her behavior was uncontrollable. She is older and more calm now, but she barks less and behaves better when she gets a daily walk. To this day I still say having a dog is the best fitness tool I ever got!
How do you get out in the cold?
Do you have any other tips for exercising in the frigid temps? Let me know your favorite activity in the comments.