Staying active all winter

By Shawna Culleton

November brought winter to Winnipeg hard and fast. Most of us were caught stuffing our faces with leftover fun-size candy bars when the reality of freezing temperatures and blankets of snow ended fall overnight. So here we are, a month later, ready to crawl under the covers to binge-watch, read, and eat until spring is in the air.

You want my advice?

Don’t settle in

That plan may have worked in your twenties, and even in your thirties you could still launch yourself back into a spring exercise routine to get back in shape. But as you age, you enter the “use it or lose it” years, and an entire season of lethargy will cost you health, muscle, balance, and stamina you can’t always gain back in a post-hibernation scramble. Make a plan to stay active in the winter months—even if the people around you are taking a pass.

Commit

The keys to creating an exercise routine that will survive the long, cold, dark days of winter are: consistency, accountability and community. Don’t just tell yourself, “I’ll cross-country ski once a week this winter.” Set your calendar, get your gear ready, and, if you really want to follow through, join a group that meets regularly. If you can’t find a group that suits you, start one of your own!

In addition, Winnipeg is home to many amazing clubs for all sorts of activities. Did you know that most public schools transforms themselves at night into playgrounds for grown-ups looking for budget-friendly community-based sports? You’d be amazed what you can find: yoga, badminton, Zumba, wall-climbing, volleyball, team handball… You get the idea.

Dress for protection

The trick to winning winter is having the right gear. If you haven’t explored the world of technical winter gear, you might be surprised at how comfortable, colourful and warm you can be outdoors—even when it’s -40°C!

If you want to make due with what you have, master layering. The proper dressing order for warmth is: sweat-wicking material next to your skin, then insulation, then a wind-blocking jacket for your outer layer.

Mix it up

Even if you have all the right gear and a calendar chock-full of activities, a long winter can sap the energy from even the strongest will. Plan ahead for the days (or weeks) when you lack inspiration or motivation. Conquer lethargy by changing up your routine.

A great way to do this is to participate in one of Winnipeg’s unique, winter-only pop-up events, such as yoga on the frozen Red River (which actually takes place inside a heated structure), or snowshoeing at FortWhyte Alive, or signing up for any of their winter skill-building events and activities. Skate, ski or walk the Red River Mutual trail, then enjoy a hot beverage or board game at the Forks with family or friends. When was the last time you tried winter horseback riding? If you’re feeling super adventurous, try a guided trail ride.

Heat it up

On days where you just can’t get warm, seek out the heat. Head to a hot yoga class. There are studios all over the city, and it’s perfectly acceptable to lay on your mat and soak in the heat if you aren’t used to moving around in high temperatures. Look for a hatha yoga class for long, still poses suitable for beginners. If you already hit the gym as part of your usual routine, make time for a session in the hot tub, sauna or steam room after your workout.

Conquer the great indoors

If the outdoors are not, under any circumstances, your thing, your challenge is to stay active without getting bored. Pepper your routine with a bit of excitement. Classes taught by instructors have a lot of built-in variety, and if you make or bring a friend, your commitment will be that much higher. If possible, plan your indoor exercise time to include natural light. Work out next to windows.

Natural light, community, warmth… These can all be found at most City of Winnipeg pools, which feature free weekly swim times, making them budget-friendly as well! Visit several pools to determine which is the best fit for you.

Go on a sample spree

Whether you want to try yoga, karate or a spin class, tour a variety of facilities that offer first-time visit discounts. Sometimes classes are free for newcomers. A flight of intro classes might be just the thing you need to keep you moving and motivated all winter long. Set a goal to try six or twelve new things by spring!


Ideas for staying active all winter

DIFFICULTY OUTDOORS INDOORS
Easy
Not quite breaking a sweat, feeling pretty relaxed, can carry on a conversation
  • Walking around your neighbourhood
  • Trail bingo: See how many trails you can explore before the snow melts
  • Build an outdoor fire and make a campfire supper
  • Walking on a treadmill or track
  • Walking at the mall or using the tunnel and skywalk system downtown
  • Non-weight-bearing cardio (elliptical, spinning)
  • Balance and posture training
Moderate
Starting to sweat a little, you’re engaging your muscles, but you can still talk in full sentences
  • Snowshoeing
  • Building a snowman
  • Nordic skiing
  • Sledding
  • Horseback riding
  • Horse-drawn sleigh ride.
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
  • Swimming
  • Aqua exercises
  • Resistance training
  • Any cardiovascular activity that makes you sweat
Hard
These activities require good balance, strength and cardio-vascular fitness, so adjust intensity to your needs
  • Running
  • Ice skating
  • Shovelling snow
  • Downhill skiing
  • Cycling
  • Running
  • Stair climbing
  • Dancing