5 tips for staying fit in winter

It’s OK to slow down a little – just keep moving

falon fleming, nait grad and personal fitness trainerWinter, by nature, can work against our efforts to keep fit.

“It’s easy in the summer,” says Falon Fleming (Personal Fitness Trainer ’15), Edmonton-based owner of Falon Fuelled Fitness.

In warmer months, she points out, we’re simply more inclined to be outside and moving.

The sidewalks aren’t slick and our skin is more prone to burning than freezing, a risk that seems easier to manage. Once the snow starts to fly, a frigid blast of wind is as likely to get into our heads as in through the front door.

“There's a lot more effort involved [in fitness] in the winter and it's just easier to say, ‘I'm not going to do it today because it requires so much planning.’”

If we don’t have a go-to winter sport like hockey or skiing, how do we warm up to staying fit in the colder months? The key is a change in perspective to match the change in season. Here are Fleming’s tips for staying motivated, the benefit of lowering your expectations, and keeping fitness fun while we wait for the carefree, cardio-boosting days of spring.

1. Adjust your fitness goals

woman sitting on couch with feet up drinking coffee

“Winter is a time of the year when we like to hibernate,” says Fleming. “That's just human nature.”

It’s normal to want to rest a little more. And it’s normal to put on a few extra pounds to stay warm, Fleming adds. In fact, it’s natural. If your goal is to work out three days out of seven because that’s all the bundling up and driving to the gym you feel you can handle, so be it.

“It's OK to take a break,” says Fleming. “But you still want to move your body.”

2. Complement your summer gains

two friends going for a run together on a sunny day

Fleming likes to run in the summer. When the weather changes, that’s done.

“There's so much more involved when you're running outside in the winter,” she says.

She has clients who follow the same course. “I encourage them in the winter to lift weights because it's important to strengthen the muscles, ligaments and tendons that we use to run.”

In general, the off-season “is a great opportunity to work your muscles in a different way,” says Fleming – but also in ways that will complement your favourite activity next season.

3. Try something completely different

students in a group fitness class doing planking exercises

Just like a fresh snowfall can turn a landscape into a blank canvas, winter offers a blank slate to the eager exerciser. If, unlike running has resistance training, your summer activity has no cold-season companion, Fleming sees that as an opportunity to experiment.

“Trying fitness classes is a great option.”

In Edmonton, a pass from YEG Fitness can be a convenient and cost-effective way to do that, says Fleming. A single fee gets you access to classes from a variety of gyms and studios.

“There are so many different options out there,” she says. Chances are good you’ll not only find a style of exercise – whether it’s crossfit, yoga, zumba, spinning and so on – that matches your winter fitness goals, but that you’ll have fun doing.

4. Stick with it

woman on mat on exercise studio floor with exercise ball, supervised by personal trainer

It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s hard to get going. But Fleming knows there are ways to beat inertia.

If you’re going it alone, she recommends a shift in focus. Look beyond the workout and how challenging it might be, and instead zero in on the broader impact.

“It will make you feel better,” Fleming says. “It’s going to give you the energy that we lack because of the time of year.”

Alternatively, she says, involve others. Find a workout buddy that you won’t want to leave in a lurch. Hit a group class for the added motivation of social interaction. Or, hire a personal trainer.

That way, “You've paid for it already,” says Fleming. No sense in wasting the money, let alone the chance to feel better for having spent it.

5. Get outside now and then

woman in a beige toque outside enjoying the snowfall

Other than perhaps vitamin D tablets, there is no real substitute for just being outside. When you can, says Fleming, try to get out.

“There’s a lot of great winter sports,” she says.

That says, Fleming would just as soon go for walks to supplement her indoor activities. It’s easy and the impacts are real. One Harvard University study showed a measurable boost in cognitive function among workers in offices with improved ventilation. Throughout the winter, how much recycled air are you breathing?

As part of your overall winter fitness routine, step outdoors periodically to fill your lungs with crisp, clean oxygen.

“Just go outside for 10 minutes, even to just get fresh air,” says Fleming. “It’s huge.”

Winter needs water too

woman in yellow shirt and beige toque drinking water outdoors after a winter workout

Even in winter months, personal trainer Falon Fleming often discusses hydration with her clients. Many people, she finds, tend to feel that the “eight cups per day” rule no longer applies.

“It's dry,” says Fleming of the Edmonton winter. “We think because it's cold we don't need to drink as much water. But you need as much water as [you do] in the summer.”

(Eight cups, incidentally, may not actually be enough. Men may need almost twice as much, and women could aim for around 50% more, or about 11.5 cups. About 20% of that will come from the food we eat.)

Banner image by Alla-Semenova/istockphoto.com

Subscribe to receive more great stories every month

Find out more news about NAIT, stories about our alumni and their impact on their communities, and useful how-to content featuring our experts.

Sign up today »