Dark Days – High Spirits.


Photo courtesy of Forrest Boughner.

Photo courtesy of Forrest Boughner.

It’s cold, it’s dark, and I feel like sitting on the couch setting a Netflix Breaking Bad marathon personal record. If you are like me, winter can be a challenging time to get outside and exercise. Read below for some strategies to keep you running and exercising until the glacier lilies bloom.

  • To keep accountability high, join your local running club’s weekly runs or plan to meet a training buddy. It’s much easier to get out and run if you have someone meeting you.
  • If you are an inside person, join a local gym for access to their treadmills when the roads are dark and icy. If you hate the idea of a dreadmill, bring some headphones and your smartphone/tablet and set your Netflix PR while running! Start a good series and only let yourself watch your show if you are working out!
  • My favorite option…get outside! If it’s the dark and lack of grip that’s holding you back, invest in a nice headlamp and some shoe traction. There are a variety of traction devices that slip over your shoe and act as mini crampons. The crampons vary in size depending on the terrain you would like to run on: from black-ice ridden sidewalks to snow packed trails. (I like the durable and light Microspikes and Nanospikes)

Sometimes the body and mind simply need a break from running. Some winter cross training activities might best to stay in aerobic shape, keep the holiday cookie pounds off, and leave your motivated and excited for running later in the year. Here are a couple of activities that will keep your furnace burning just as hot as running:

  • Cross Country Skiing – XC skiing at a moderate pace of 4-4.9 mph is the equivalent of running a 12 min/mile and will burn ~650 calories/hr. Skiing at a vigorous pace of 8mph or greater is the equivalent of running a 7min/mile and will burn ~1100 calories/hr. A benefit about XC skiing is that it has less impact than running so your muscles will likely allow you to exercise longer before fatigue.  You will also strengthen some muscles that running tends to neglect. You may want to take a lesson from your local Nordic club to ensure proper and efficient form if you are a beginner!
  • Snow shoeing – A simpler, less expensive sport than XC skiing. You can expect to burn ~650 calories/hr snowshoeing at normal hiking speeds (~2.5mph) which is the equivalent of running a 12 min/mile. Not too bad for going twice as slow!
  • Downhill skiing or snowboarding – Not as aerobic as the modes above but still is a decent aerobic workout. You can expect to burn 400-650 calories an hour (not factoring in the chairlift). However, if you really want to “earn your turns”, then invest in an alpine touring ski package where you can “skin-up” the mountain sans chairlift and burn >1100 calories an hour.

* These caloric estimates are based on the “Compendium of physical activities: an update of activity codes and MET intensities” from the American College of Sports Medicine and using a 165lb person.

Let’s hear some tips from you! What are your strategies that you use to keep your motivation throughout winter? Post in the comment section!

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