“Easy to assemble.” Where have I heard those words before? After my impulse purchase of a cycling trainer – a device that converts a bicycle into a stationary bicycle for indoor use – my husband spent an entire evening assembling the darn thing. “This is cool! We can get in more cardio exercise while we watch TV,” I cooed.
It was November 5. That night, we turned our clocks back one hour. The sun would be setting earlier, making the evenings dreadfully dark for the next few months. It was also getting colder –the time to start planning winter fitness activities.
One of my key strategies for success – with respect to fitness or just about anything else – is planning. Don’t wait until winter is in full swing before you start thinking about how to overcome the challenges of the season. Invest a bit of time to create a realistic exercise plan for yourself.
If you want to stay fit throughout winter and you’re not sure how, a good mnemonic device is the marriage rhyme: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”
Tip #1: Think of an old familiar activity, perhaps something you currently do or have done in the past that you enjoy. Continue doing it throughout winter, even if you have to adapt to the environment. For example, I run outdoors year-round, but I wear weather-appropriate clothing and safety gear suited to winter conditions. I also do strength training in the gym, which doesn’t require winter modifications.
Think of a physical activity you can commit to for the winter. If it’s done outdoors, what changes will you need to make? Will you need to go out earlier before it gets dark? Will you need to find a different route where the sidewalks are cleared of snow? Will you need to get some warmer layers that you can peel off as you sweat?
Tip #2: Think of something new. Is there an activity you’ve always wanted to try or something you recently heard about that piqued your interest? How can you get involved? When I heard that ice dragon boat racing was coming to Ottawa Winterlude 2017, I immediately wanted to be a part of this historic event. I sought the key information, dates and associated costs and used social media to get a team of women together.
Social isolation tends to increase in winter, especially with older adults. Ask your friends what physical activities they engage in. Perhaps you can join in the fun.
Everyone should try something new. Step outside your comfort zone, push yourself in new ways and test your mettle. What excites you? Give it a try!
Tip #3: Think of something borrowed. By that I mean blending the new and the old or taking the familiar and putting a twist on it. Perhaps you normally play tennis. With the cold and snow on its way, you can take your activity indoors. That’s why I got an indoor cycling trainer. Rather than putting my bike away for six months or so, I’ll be able to get some use out of it.
You can move your outdoor walking or running to the treadmill if you don’t feel secure facing the harsh elements or if you’re at an increased risk of falls or fractures. You can also change up your routine just enough to stay motivated and move your muscles in new ways by trying an activity that’s a variation of something you’re used to. Maybe try a different yoga class instead of your regular one, or personal training instead of working out on your own.
The simple act of changing venues or trying a new flavour of an activity may be enough to maintain your motivation. Change is good. It keeps our minds and our bodies on top of our game.
Tip #4: The marriage poem includes something blue, referring to fidelity. Fidelity can be the promise you make to yourself to stay active and fit throughout winter, so that when spring arrives, you’ll feel stronger, happier and healthier than if you spent months in a physical and mental state of hibernation.
The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote, “O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
Make a plan, keep your promises to yourself throughout winter and expect to enjoy the positive results of your efforts.