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Stay Active and Fit this Winter with a New Approach

Don’t let the long, dark days of cold and wet winter weather de-rail your workouts. While it is true that cold, rainy weather seems to invite you in to snuggle in front of the fire with a good book, you can’t change the forecast, but you can change how you approach it and still come out of the other side of winter working toward your fitness goals. If you are like most people, moving south for the dreary months is not an option.

Keep in mind, at bare minimum, all you need in 30 minutes of exercise 3 times a week to boost your mood and help keep the pounds off. So we want to challenge you to look winter in the eye and get out there and keep moving. Change it up and make it fun with some of our tips to stay active and fit during the winter.

  • Get a new mindset: There are activities and opportunities in the winter months that you can’t easily take advantage of in other seasons. Rather than getting sidelined waiting for better weather, embrace the season and the adventures to be taken advantage of.
  • Wear the right gear: If you dress to stay dry, you will stay warm. This means a water proof outer shell. Underneath that should be NON COTTON layers for regulating your body temperature and wick moisture away from your skin so you don’t get chilled. How many layers is up to you and your activity.
  • Warm up indoors first if you are able: Keep in mind it takes longer in cold weather for your body to warm up, so be patient and give it time before you go all out.
  • Protect your extremities: Fingers, toes, and noses are the first to get cold due to your body’s natural response to send blood inward to keep your vital organs warm
  • Just get out and play in it! You don’t need to get started in a new, expensive, gear hungry sport, how about building a snowman, starting a snowball fight, or making snow angels? They burn 285, 319, and 214 calories per hour, respectively. Check out this detailed list of just how much you burn doing other winter sports.
  • Protect your skin: A dry, tender chapped face and lips is enough to make you avoid the next winter workout. Apply a serious winter hydration with lubricants and SPF such as Murad Winter Hydration or Clairns Hydra-Care Serum.
  • Protect your feet: Running shoes tend to breathe too well in the winter and let cold air and moisture in. Prevent this with shoe covers. If you hike or snowshoe, gaiters are a must.
  • If you need a break from some really bad weather, sign up for a winter sports league such as dodgeball, coed volleyball, or any other sport of your choice. Your local parks and rec department is happy to keep you moving this winter.

The important thing is to find those activities and scenarios that make it work for you to keep active and staying strong. Spring is not that far away and remind yourself that it will be that much more enjoyable if you are fit when the good weather hits.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

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Winter Sports Conditioning to Prevent Injuries

We know it is already here and likely you have already hit the slopes and trails, but it is never too late to add some conditioning exercises to help your knees get strong and resilient for the challenges you are throwing at them out there.

Whether you ski, snowshoe, snowboard, or any other winter sport, specific muscle groups tend to take the increased challenges that snow and ice throw your way.

  • Stretching: This is critical to keep your muscles flexible and loose and prevent injuries. Stretch when you are warmed up, not cold, otherwise you risk pulled or even torn muscles. This is known as dynamic stretching. After warming up, stretch in gentle pulses, allowing you to push the stretch more.
  • Quads: These are the four muscles on the front of the thigh, and considered the most important muscles to keep your knees stable and strong. Do Swiss ball squats against a wall and also quad extensions.
  • Knees: Adductor and Abductor exercises are critical in maintaining lower body balance, something needed in every winter snow sport.
  • Lateral Movement: Training this way challenges balance and all the above muscles and trains your body to react to challenging terrain and slopes, and build your explosive power.
  • Step-up exercises: Use a platform such as a sturdy stool or a balance board to do step ups and challenge your coordination and balance while building key leg muscles such as your quads and glutes.
  • Bosu ball: This will work on balance and coordination. This Bosu ball list of exercises has endless ideas, but focus especially on the front, back and side lunges.
  • Core: This is obviously working on your key abdominal muscles, but don’t forget your back muscles, as they are equally important to maintaining a healthy core which is needed in winter sports. Oblique Twists are great for this and there are many variations to challenge yourself.
  • More stretching: We really cannot say enough that you must not skip regular stretching for injury prevention. Here is a great pre and post ski stretching routine to get you safely through the season and beyond.

These are a great place to start to get you ready and keep you injury free during your winter adventures. Start today!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

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Essentials for Winter Hiking and Snowshoeing Safety

Rumor has it that 2015 was the year of the hiker with hiking and I both increasing in popularity like never before. With all the new interest comes a large group of inexperienced and potentially unprepared people in the back country. This is dangerous regardless of the season, but winter hiking and snow country unpreparedness can become a life threatening situation very quickly due to exposure, hyperthermia, avalanche dangers and other concerns.

The place to start is with any local mountaineering organizations as well as being familiar with local and regional safety resources. In Washington State, the following organizations have a myriad of resources and helpful links to keep you safe in the backcountry this winter. Your state and region will also have similar organizations.

When you are on the trail in snowy conditions, keep in mind the following:

  • Always carry the 10 essentials, they really are essential if you find yourself in need
  • Carry extra water, emergency supplies and food to last you a full day in case you get stranded, lost, or injured.
  • Know your avalanche dangers in the area you plan to hike and realize they do not just occur on steep grades. Avalanche.org is a great resource for more detailed information.
  • Know the 10 essentials of Avalanche Safety and follow them.
  • Be aware that many objects and hazards can lie just beneath the surface of the snow such as rocks, sharp branches, and even barbed wire fences. Proceed with caution as if something is under there.
  • Always carry a map and familiarize yourself with your course before you leave the trailhead. Snowy conditions can make even the most familiar of trails unfamiliar to you and cause you to be disoriented.
  • Along with your map, bring a compass and have an understanding of basic compass reading.
  • Don’t walk out on frozen water just because someone walked it before you. Check for thickness yourself and when in doubt, it is best to go around.
  • Let someone know where you will be going and approximately your expected arrival time.
  • Know the signs for hypothermia and frostbite and be prepared to deal with it. Hyperthermia can progress very slowly, impairing judgement and lead to life-threatening decisions.
  • Get the appropriate winter clothing and gear for your activity. Sierra Trading Post has created this great guide to help you plan your layers and suggested fabric types for each layer.

Follow these guidelines and you will be doing all you can to keep yourself safe out there and having fun all winter long.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com.

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Don’t Get Into a Winter Workout Rut

It is cold and dark out there and there are real reasons why various animals hibernate in the winter months. Coming home from work and cozying up on the couch with a good read or flick just sometimes seems more attractive than getting out there and getting sweaty. Even the most dedicated of athletes hit ruts in workout routines, making it hard to keep motivated.

There are plenty of reasons to stay motivated in your workouts, so you don’t get into a winter workout rut. We have a list for you to refer to when those days come… and they will!

  • Spring time and better weather is really only 3 months away. You can accomplish a lot in three months and really be ready to go for some of those outdoor pursuits you don’t do during the winter. Post a pic of yourself engaged in your favorite warmer weather activity for motivation.
  • Learn to love the cold. Winter sports are a blast and if you don’t have one, make this winter the one where you try something new. You will be invigorated just getting out in the pretty white stuff and it is all that much more fun while trying that new snow sport you have been putting off.
  • Bust the Blahs: Most individuals in northern climates are affected even just a bit by the decreased daylight and sunshine. Getting out and ramping up your heart rate and endorphins has been proven to help beat the winter blues. Just tell yourself it is a commitment to good mental health.
  • Get a workout buddy for the winter months: When you are committed to checking in with someone else, you are setting yourself on the path to success since you are less likely to put things off if you are checking in with someone or meeting them to work out.
  • Set some goals: Sit down and think of the fitness skills or levels that you know you have been thinking of. Then make a plan to get to the finish line. Are 25 pushups a challenge? Are you frustrated with your ab strength? Set specific goals to certain levels and work toward those each day and mark your progress in a workout journal app.
  • Speaking of technology…check out some of these great fitness apps. Getting started on one of these will make your workouts fresh and fun and keeps you accountable and motivated as you see your progress in relationship to your goals. There are a great variety to choose from with different focuses such as cash rewards or involvement in a fitness community for “team” encouragement.
  • Burn Baby, Burn: More calories, that is. You burn more calories working out in winter months than you do in the summer. This is due to your body needing to work harder in the cold weather to maintain proper body temp.
  • Get some new gear or workout clothing. If you have fun, new things to wear and also appropriate gear to keep you dry and warm, you are more likely to get out in the elements and look great while working towards your fitness goals.

If it helps, post some of these reasons on 3×5 cards around your house to keep you on track and motivated to hang in there until that great weather returns. It will return and what you do during these winter months will have bearing on in what condition you will greet the spring!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

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Tips for Safe Rainy Day Cycling

Cycling is one of those sports that is highly addictive. And those badass, committed cyclists are not going to let rainy days hold them back. With a bit of safety precaution and planning, you can continue with your rides even for rainy day cycling.

  • Regulate your body temperature: Core body temperature is an issue, because as you get chilled, your focus is affected which can leave to poor decisions regarding bike control. Therefore, a light breathable, waterproof shell is your best friend. Accept ahead of time that even with a waterproof shell, you will get wet, the goal is to manage your body temp and not get chilled.
  • Adjust for slippery roads: Make sure to test your brakes before you start since wet conditions have a direct effect on your ability to brake in time. Braking in the rain safely is braking in a straight line, not on a corner, so think ahead and as much as is possible keep your bike more upright than normal through corners, not accelerating out of them too quickly
  • Look out for specific sliding hazards: Painted surfaces and steel are even more of a hazard when road conditions are wet. Painted crosswalks, white lines, manhole covers, grates, and railroad crossings are the most common hazards. If you can’t avoid them, take care to ride them straight on rather than at angles or in turning.
  • Protect your vision: A cap with a visor along with cycling glasses help keep splatters out and your eyes on the road. Many collisions are due to vision impairment from wet conditions.
  • Light it up: Even mid-day in winter, wet weather is dark and that makes you more difficult to see by motorists. Improve your chances with bike, helmet, and body mounted lights.
  • Fenders: they may not be the sleekest racing accessory, but they keep you just that much drier and cleaner and again, focused on the road rather than your own discomfort

Keep yourself safe out there and continue to enjoy your rides all rainy season long… and be sure to finish up with a nice hot drink as a reward for your badass commitment in the rain!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

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6 Ways a Snow Day Can Boost Fitness

Snow days are coming and you can be ready.  No need to let it make you feel shut inside…embrace the white stuff! There is just something about having a great excuse NOT to make it into work and also getting out and taking full advantage of the winter wonderland to boost fitness.

Even for those of you in more temperate climates but you have access to the mountains, you can take advantage and go make your snow day just to enjoy it all!

Grab your loved ones and friends and head out there to try out the fun options of activities that get you out in the snow and also turning it into a workout to boost fitness. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Dig in! Shoveling snow is one of the highest caloric burning activities you can do and also check a chore off your to-do list. An average 145 lb. female age 55 burns 278 calories per hour and the metabolic rate after you are done continues the rest of the day. Check out this nifty snow shoveling calculator for your exact weight/height/sex to see how much you burn.
  • Slide down… The hill on a tube!  Any good hill near you and an inner tube and you are good to go to burn 408 calories per hour.  There is something to be said for having to drag your toboggan or sled back up that monster of a hill
  • Fight it out with snowballs as your ammo…Good old fashioned warfare not only is a good workout, but it brings out that inner kid that never really left you and was just looking for a good excuse to nail someone! 160 calories burned per hour.
  • Hike in it, with your snowshoes, that is.  Burning a whopping 476 calories per hour, this sport has been around for a ka-jillion years or so and for good reason.  It is a great way to continue to enjoy the peace and solitude of the back country and stay in shape all winter long. Be prepared with layers because you will heat up quickly.
  • Get fortified by it with a snow fort worthy of all those snowballs your kids and/or grandkids are making. Some of these are amazing and over the top, but hey, great inspiration for your design sense!
  • Get Angelic in it … with your best snow angel self. 107 calories burned per hour creating those snow angels unless you decide to make an entire celestial band of it and you can likely triple that figure.

You see, although your typical downhill sports are fun options, there really are many more that take very little cash outlay and can happen with limited planning and equipment.  The main point is to get out in it and play and breathe deeply!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

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Top Tips to Prevent Cold and Flu this Season

You know you are going to be out in the elements this winter, taking your workout to the trails, slopes and road. You are also coming up on cold and flu season and lots of those nasty bugs are starting to circulate. Make sure you don’t get sidelined from your outdoor workouts with a bite of a bug…you beat it first!

We have come up with some of the top supplements and tips that you can take to beat the bugs this season and stay in top form…but first let’s focus on the most important and effective way to beat colds and flu. Build up and protect your immune system. It is already working hard for you fighting off viruses even as you are reading this. The state of your immune system is the biggest indicator of whether or not you will get sick this season, NOT a flu vaccine. Your most important immune system strengtheners before any supplements:

  • Healthy eating
  • Be well rested
  • Get plenty of exercise

Consider the following supplements icing on the cake:

  • Vitamin D: If you have to pick just one, this powerhouse makes the biggest difference in your immune system. It promotes the all-important CD8 T cells that protect you from the flu viruses. Vitamin D also produces 200 to 300 different antimicrobial peptides in your body that kill bacteria, viruses and fungi.
  • Vitamin B12: Whether you take it by injection or orally, higher levels of B12 in the body has shown to increase antibody production in the immune system.

V B12 has also been credited with assisting the body’s reaction to stress and is used by every cell in the body for healthy functioning. Don’t skip on your B12’s!

  • Natural Immune Boosters such as oil of oregano and garlic, provide valuable protection against a long list of bacteria and viruses which are constantly invading your body. These natural antibiotics do not lead to antibiotic resistance and the likelihood of developing super germs.

So start now with your plan to beat the bugs this season and stay out there playing and working out strong.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

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Bad Weather Fitness: Bringing the Outdoors Indoors

As much as we love and are committed to outdoor fitness and have a lot of the best gear to continue out there even in bad weather, we have to admit that sometimes, some days it is just better and even safer to find an indoor alternative. We have some creative ways for you to take the outdoors indoors and still experience somewhat of an outdoor activity and practice some of your favorite outdoor skills in the worst of conditions, for bad weather fitness.

  • Climbing Gyms: These places are pretty cool and not just for experienced genX and millennial rock climbers. Climbing gyms offer classes and introductory sessions for complete newbies. They provide a safe environment with a wide variety of skill levels and trained staff to teach you the, ahem…ropes (sorry, couldn’t resist!). You will be safely harnessed and belted with top-roped climbs up to about 60 feet or so. Top rope climbs have a carabiner secured to a ceiling bolt with the rope running through it. Some gyms also have the option of bouldering which is done closer to the ground with safety crash pads and doesn’t require harnesses or ropes. Standard gym clothes, not too loosely fitting are just fine. If you start to get into it, some good rick climbing shoes will be your first purchase.
  • Ice-skating: Yes, pretty old fashioned, but it is a great workout and appeals to people of all ages. Skates are rented, so the only gear you need to have are your typical cold weather gear and perhaps a pair of knee pads. You are sure to get in a great cardio workout!
  • Run the Rain Forest! Well, ok, indoor arboretums or conservatories is what we are talking about. Most major cities have an indoor botanical garden or conservatory and if it is not too crowded, you may be able to sneak in a power walk! Check out this list of the top 10 indoor gardens in the world and also the top botanical gardens and conservatories in the US. Check out your local or regional parks department for a list of public and private conservatories in your area.
  • Skiing! Yes, indoor ski parks are growing nation and worldwide. If you just can’t wait until there is enough real powder near you, check this out. Some of these have manufactured snow, others are actually snowless! You will be surprised at how many indoor ski parks there are and one just may be bear you.

So don’t despair with the yucky weather outside, there are options that will see you through the worst of it and keep you in shape for your favorite outdoor activities.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

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Preparing for the Slopes

Ski and snowboard season are just around the corner. Planning the winter resort getaway with families and friends is half the fun. Keep the other half truly fun and make sure you come back whole and injury free by changing up some of your workout now to get yourself in shape specifically preparing for the slopes.

Winter sports require agility, flexibility, and strength. If you take the time now in the weeks before the season starts, not only will you prevent injuries, but you will have more fun as you will find yourself able to push it all day long and go your limit.

We have come up with some exercises specifically targeting hamstrings, knees, low back, quads, and glutes. But before targeting those areas, make sure you are beefing up your cardio and not just focusing on the muscle groups. Hitting the slopes or trails all day is taxing, so make sure you are challenging your whole body, including your heart.

Knees

  • Single leg Squats: Not only does this great exercise build your knee strength, but it does so specifically to each knee individually as you will put those demands on them on the slopes. As you squat on one leg, extend the other straight out in front of you, until the weight bearing thigh is parallel to the floor. Take care that you are squatting back and so your knee doesn’t push forward over your toe. Repeat 15-20 ties and then alternate legs

Back

  • Back Extensions: these target your last in your lower back and are really critical to prevent back strain after a day on the snow. Lying face down on a mat, place your hands behind your head. Start with your abs contracted and squeeze your back so you lift your chest off the floor. Focus on lengthening your torso as you lift for good form. This exercise is done slowly, holding at the top and then lowering for one rep. Repeat 15 times. For a greater challenge, lift your feet off the floor at the same time.

Hamstrings

  • Hamstring curls: Using a weight machine or resistance bands, lie face down on the bench with your legs extended straight behind you, bands attached to your ankle. Curl your legs one at a time, drawing your heel toward your butt, taking care not to arch your back. Repeat 10-15 times on each leg, alternating legs for 3 sets each.

Glutes:

  • Dead lift: Using either dumbbells or a barbell, start with the weights in your hands, arms extended straight down in front of your thighs. Start with your knees slightly bent and keep the weights close to the front of your legs as you lean forward from your hips and back straight. Lean/lower the weights to the floor slowly contracting your glutes as you come back up. 15-20 reps, 3 sets.

Quads

  • Wall sits: This challenges your quads and knees with your own bodyweight and conditions them to handle the turns on the slopes. Stand next to a wall with your back, placing your feet about a foot out. Slide down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold this with your knees directly over but not in front of your ankles. Try to hold each time for 30 seconds, repeating 3 times or more.

Do the above exercises 3 times a week for at least 3 weeks prior to your ski or snowboard trip and you will be amazed at the difference!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

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Try Some New Outdoor Activities This Fall

Although heading to the gym is a nice alternative to your fall workouts when the weather is truly miserable, sometimes just trying something new is enough to help you forget the shorter, darker days and keep you motivated. We challenge you to get out there and try some new outdoor activities this fall and winter and we just bet some of these may stay with you for life!

  • Snowshoeing: If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Equipment includes snowshoes and trekking poles and winter hiking clothing. A detailed gear list here takes the guess work out of it for you. This sport is easy to learn, inexpensive to start and is a great cardo workout. Rather than waste money on a set of snowshoes and poles that don’t work for you, try renting a few different types first. Most Nordic centers rent for about $10. Then when you are ready to purchase, you know what styles work for you. You can start out on relatively flat, close in hiking trails to gain comfort and confidence before you hit the backcountry. Any ski areas near you also have perfect snowshoeing trails nearby.
  • Snowboarding: Not just for gen-x’ers, this downhill sport is less expensive than skiing for either purchasing or renting. I recommend you start out with a lesson to get you over that beginner hump, but once you do, you will be amazed at how quickly you can pick this up. This post has some really valuable tips for beginners and helps to take the mystery out of it.
  • Orienteering: Learning to read maps and navigate by compass is not only a valuable backcountry skill, it is fun! You can take it into geocaching once you get hooked. There are club orienteering events for foot, ski and bike and Orienteering USA sanctions events all across the country. This one can get really addicting, try it!
  • Ice Fishing: There is no better reason to make that lovely rich thermos of hot chocolate and enjoy the crisp, winter weather than ice fishing. Combine this with winter hiking or snowshoeing and you have some cardio to go with that yummy fish dinner later!
  • Zorbing: One of the more extreme new sports out there, but ya gotta try this! Started in New Zealand in the mid-90’s, this is taking off worldwide. Basically, participants climb inside a huge inflatable ball and roll down a hill. These balls are double-walled and provide full protection for those strapped within. Some zorb locations also provide water based zorb opportunities…not suggested for winter zorbing, however.

So get out your winter workout gear and try something new, you may just have a hard time stopping once you have started!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com