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Tips for outdoor exercise during winter season

February 13, 2013

Staff Report

MILWAUKEE — During this cold time of year, it can be natural to want to curl up inside and let your fitness routine take a backseat for the season. But there’s no need to let the weather derail your journey to wellness. Consider the following recommendations from TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, to work out creatively — and safely — in the outdoors this winter.

Prepare to head out — Outdoor winter workouts require a bit of preparation, depending on the conditions. Remember to dress warmly and in layers, paying particular attention to your hands, feet and head. Avoid cotton and select a moisture-wicking material for your base layer; perspiration can make an individual feel even colder because the wetness chills from the temperature. Slather on a sunscreen containing at least SPF 15 or higher to protect against sunburn that can occur from exercising in snow or high altitudes. Also, don’t forget to wear a lip balm that contains sunscreen. Remember to stay hydrated and keep a bottle of water with you, even if you think you won’t get as sweaty as you might normally during a workout. Eat a light snack an hour or two before working out, to add energy and prevent distracting hunger pangs.

Warm up indoors — Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes before heading outdoors by stretching, doing jumping jacks, briskly walking and more. In winter weather, muscles tighten and take longer to loosen than they do in warmer temperatures. Warm muscles also burn fat more readily than cold muscles, and that muscle elasticity helps prevent injuries and hasten recovery.

Go for a hike — Providing a great conditioning workout, hiking can also be an escape from hectic city life. Focus on the climb of the hills, and enjoy nature’s beauty as you hike. Don’t forget to wear hiking shoes, and consider over-the-shoe traction devices and hiking poles to aid in stability.

Run for the season — Running isn’t just for warmer temps (although winter may not be the ideal time to begin practicing this sport). Purchase a pair of running shoes designed specifically for winter or an over-the-shoe traction device, which helps prevent falls, particularly on icy roads or trails. Reduced daylight means darker runs, so wear a headlamp and reflective gear as well.

Get out and play — Everyone can enjoy making snow angels, building an igloo, making snowmen, or having a snowball fight — and keep fit doing so. Build strength and get in a cardio workout by climbing up a nearby hill while pulling a sled — and then racing down.

Shovel to slim — Shoveling snow is a surefire way to work up a sweat and burn off excess calories. However, if you have a history of heart problems, high cholesterol or are a smoker, proceed with caution, as snow shoveling may cause a quick increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Push the snow as you shovel, instead of lifting it out of the way, to ease pressure on your back. If you must lift, be sure to lift from your legs and not your back, and pick up small shovels of snow at a time. Also take frequent breaks to allow your heart rate to level. Keeping these tips in mind will help ensure an effective and safe workout.

From the Feb. 13-19, 2013, issue

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