My morning alarm has been going off way too early recently. It seems like I have only just gotten to sleep, and then the alarm starts blaring! After dragging myself out of bed and sitting at work all day, I typically feel sluggish, achy, and drained. Strange how sitting at a desk and hardly moving can be so tiring! When work is finally over, I make the long voyage back home in the dark. By the time dinner is finished, it usually feels like bedtime. I have trouble motivating myself to do laundry, much less go for a run. During warmer months, I look forward to walking, jogging or hiking almost every night after work. In contrast, staying active this time of year seems next to impossible.
After sitting at my desk all day, then snuggling up on the couch for a TV show or two, I often have trouble falling asleep at night. Instead of drifting off to sleep, my mind is restless and anxious. I toss and turn for hours, and my usual tricks to fall asleep don’t help. Then I begin the next day exhausted and the cycle starts all over again.
Staying active is a challenge in the winter, but it is also a critical part of my wellness routine. I’m no athlete, and stick to walking and jogging most of the time. But my exercise is important for my physical and mental health. I have come up with quite a few different ways to meet my goal of exercising at least two times each week. In the past two months, increasing my activity level has made a drastic change in my life! Depending on the weather, I have lots of strategies to get an enjoyable low to medium impact workout outside, indoors, or at home. Staying active helps me sleep more soundly, have more energy, and just feel all around better in the dreary winter months.
Staying Active Outside in the Winter
Lunch break – When the weather is decent, going for a walk on my lunch break is my favorite. Though it may be cold, it is the warmest outside that it will be all day! You get to enjoy the sunlight and get a break from the computer screen. I find going for a 15-30 minute walk at lunchtime helps break up my day and boosts my energy levels immensely. Sometimes if I need a little motivation, I will walk to a local coffee shop and treat myself to a piping hot Americano.
Outdoor events – See if there are any local events on the weekends that you are interested in checking out! I like to browse events on Facebook to see what is going on in my area. There are races and walks in the winter time, but we also like to look for festival type events that we can walk around and keep occupied. Some ideas nearby to Central and South Jersey include: Laurita Winery’s Winterfest in New Egypt NJ (Great to visit anytime, Winterfest is February 18th and 19th), Peddlers Village in New Hope PA (Great anytime, many outdoor festivals), Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest in Philadelphia (Skating now through March 5th ), Belmar’s St Patricks Day Parade (March 5th), Philadelphia Love Run Half Marathon (March 26th)
Sightseeing – Even without finding an upcoming event, DJ and I like to go for a brisk walk around cities in our area. If we get too cold, we can pop into a local shop to warm up before continuing on our way. We love walking around Philadelphia, Pitman, Mullica Hill, New Hope, Lambertville, Lake Como, Asbury Park, Point Pleasant, Red Bank and any new places! Princeton, downtown Freehold, Haddonfield, and Wilmington are on our list to check out for the first time.
After work date night – To me, the worst part of winter is how dark it gets so early! Walking around in the dark, especially when sidewalks may be icy, is not safe in our residential development. We like to plan a date night after work in a local city and walk around before and after our meal. Since it is usually better lit and maintained, I feel a lot safer walking around there in the dark. By parking the car a few blocks away, we can score cheaper parking and get some exercise.
Laps around a local shopping center – If I don’t have a lot of time or don’t feel like driving far, my last resort for staying outdoors is walking around a local strip mall. We have a few of these shopping centers around that have stores (and sidewalks!) all the way around. I can walk or jog around a few times, even do some quick exercises, then head right back home.
Tips for Exercising Outdoors in the Winter
Warm up before you go outside – If you can, jog in place for a few minutes, or do some jumping jacks to get your body warming up before you head outside. It will keep you from feeling as cold out there.
Don’t forget a hat, gloves, and base layers – This time of year, a coat isn’t enough to keep me warm. If you have the same problem, don’t forget to wear a hat, gloves, and a base layer. I recently learned that base layers should be synthetic materials, not cotton! Since I found that out, I have loved HEATTECH from Uniqlo. Since synthetic layers draw moisture away from your body, you stay warmer. I also love that they’re thinner than cotton, which helps my clothes look better. If temperatures are very low, I also like to layer an insulated vest under my coat.
To increase the impact of your work out, you can always strap on ankle weights, or carry handheld weights. Other options include jogging, running, or adding cardio exercises. The cold will affect your athletic performance, so don’t push yourself too hard!
Getting Active Indoors
Try out a new class or recreational facility – There are a ton of options for activities on Groupon if you want to save money and try something new! In my area, I saw yoga, kickboxing, zumba, boot camp, pilates and barre classes nearby. I also checked out ice skating, rock climbing, trampoline centers, and more. DJ and I have been talking about possibly going ice skating – I don’t know how to skate, though!
Do a free trial or prepaid pass at a local gym – If like us, you prefer to exercise outdoors and don’t have a gym membership, you can still use the facilities part time during the year! Lots of gyms offer free day or week passes to prospective members, if you want to try it out. There are also month and 3 month memberships available at Groupon, so you don’t have to worry about a contract or automatic payments. Many gyms offer day passes as well. Plus you can take advantage of the gym’s sauna or hot tub after your workout! The heat will be a blissful reward for skipping the Netflix marathon and getting active.
Indoor events – Similarly to outdoor events but without the wind chill, walking around an interesting event is a great alternative to hibernation. Some upcoming and in the area ideas we had include: Laurita Winery Line Dancing nights (Many dates), Philadelphia Flower Show (March 11 to 19), Roller Park and Valentine’s Day Market in Asbury Park NJ (February 10 and 11)
Do a couple laps around any local store or mall – This is not window shopping. If you need to leave your debit card at home or your purse in the car, do it! However, if you do need to take care of some errands, consider making a couple laps around the store before you start purchasing. If your local mall has stairs, walking up and down them is a great idea to sneak in some more exercise.
Volunteering – You can do good for others while staying active by volunteering at a soup kitchen, participating in a food drive, handing out flyers around the neighborhood, or filling any other physically active role. Search www.volunteermatch.org for opportunities in your area!
Staying Active at Home
Do workout videos – There are so many videos out there on the internet for any experience level, style, and amount of equipment. Some good free ones to check out are Sweaty Betty and Fitness Blender. If you have a video streaming service such as Netflix or Hulu, check out what they have on there too.
Exercise while watching TV or movie – You don’t need a treadmill or elliptical, though if you have one that’s great. If not, simply jog in place, lift weights, do lunges, jumping jacks, planks, or any other exercise. Commercial breaks are a great time to fit in more strenuous exercises.
Housework counts! Laundry, vacuuming, scrubbing, shoveling snow, and any other “spring cleaning” that can be taken care of early! According to the internet, housework burns 200 calories an hour ; )
Long story short, don’t let winter slow you down. The weather may be cold, dark and dreary, but winter is half way over as of today! It can be tempting to slip into that hibernation state, but it can have a dismal impact on your professional and private life. After making a point to keep active, DJ and I have been sleeping better and having more energy everyday. Try it out and see what benefits incorporating more exercise into your life will bring!
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