You’ve traded in your bikini for boots and an overcoat, so there’s no real reason to work out during the winter, right? That’s what too many people think, and that’s why “Get Ready For The Beach” articles are standard in spring fitness magazines. But this year, instead of gorging through the holidays like a bear getting ready to hibernate, how about relying on a routine to keep a hot body under all those winter clothes? Here are some timely tips to make your body a winter wonderland:
1. Put it on ice!
Cold-weather sports provide great exercise. Along with getting some much-needed fresh air during the winter, they can help build muscle mass, endurance and balance. Even being outdoors during cold weather is a fat melter, because the body burns extra calories keeping itself warm. Think of your body as a fireplace: it burns hottest in winter.
Don’t you love the strong, muscular legs of skaters? Ice skating is a low-impact exercise (unless you’re doing a lot of jumps) that’s good for building lower-body muscles, such as the hips, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves. And there’s no need to do a lot of jumps, because who needs a sprained ankle? Keep your feet on the ice and just concentrate on working the quads.
Did you know your skiing holiday can provide plenty of health benefits, too? Tone your stomach muscles, boost your immunity and even relieve depression! It’s the one vacation that could send you home five pounds lighter instead of heavier! A 6-hour day of skiing will burn up to 3,000 calories. That’s almost a pound of pure fat. As long as you don’t put that back on drinking too much wine in the hot tub at the end of the day, you’ll lose weight.
2. Start a fire!
That fire is your body burning calories and keeping you warm this winter. So what does that take? A higher metabolism. As we age, our body loses muscle and burns fewer calories. We also tend to be less active. The combination makes us softer and slower, which compounds the problem further.
How to bring up the heat? Muscle up, baby! Nothing burns calories more consistently than additional muscle. That is why professional bodybuilders eat every few hours, even to the point of waking up at night for more fuel. Talk to your local trainer, but the best way to pack on mass is to lift heavy weights. You won’t get in as many reps, but you will be breaking down muscle fibers and they will repair themselves to create more muscle.
3. Jump to it!
An intense workout, like jumping rope, burns calories in a short amount of time. On average, jumping rope will burn up to 11 calories per minute. If you crank up the intensity with speed and some fancy Rocky-style footwork, you can burn up to 20 calories per minute.
Bret Stewart, ultra-marathoner, triathlete and co-author of Ultimate Jump Rope Workouts – says skipping isn’t child’s play. Stewart compares skipping to a “vigorous basketball game, a six-minute-mile run and a 20-miles-per-hour bike ride.”
“Circuit” in 10 minutes of jumping rope three times during your next weight training routine and you will burn an additional 600 calories!
Counting calories during exercise is also one of the most powerful methods to control eating. Why? Because since you know it takes about two minutes to eat a Snickers bar and more than 20 minutes to exercise it off, that’s a trade-off you’re more likely to take seriously the next time you’re standing in the grocery check-out line.
Jump ropes are small, lightweight and inexpensive. They make a perfect suitcase item for those of you who travel! Just remember to wear a good pair of shock-absorbent shoes. Jumping rope is not considered a low impact activity.
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4. TV time!
Cold, rainy days are perfect to stay inside and watch the tube, right? Well, there’s a better way to do it than just sit on the couch.
Get a set of dumbbells. Then you’ll be able to do curls, rows and overhead presses. Don’t buy a set of 5-pounders, as you’ll get bored and such a light weight won’t add any muscle. Women should start with at least 10 pounds and men with 20 pounds.
Also try some leg raises. Simply lie on your back, raise your legs about six inches off the floor, and keep them steady for a count of 20. Bet you’re not tough enough to do these from one set of commercials to the other. Give it a shot!
5. Get toasty!
Need a break from the cold? Warm up in a Bikram or other hot yoga class. These classes are held in rooms heated up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity of up to 40 percent.
Practicing yoga poses in this hot, moist air builds endurance, while the heat promotes relaxation and flexibility and can allow the muscles to loosen more than they would be able to under normal temperatures.
“Yoga also yields a wonderful antidepressant effect in that it improves flexibility, involves mindfulness, breaks up repetitive negative thoughts, increases strength, makes you aware of your breathing, improves balance and contains a meditative component,” says Norman E. Rosenthal, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.
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6. Banish the blues!
“I felt like running,” claimed Forrest Gump after his three-year, two-month, 14-day and 16-hour marathon. The real reason was that Jenny had left him.
Running will banish break-up and winter blues by releasing good endorphins. These endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers, providing a sense of euphoria, calmness and well-being. David Muzina, MD, the founding Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Mood Disorders Treatment and Research explains exercise stimulates the release of brain chemicals thought to be in low supply when someone is battling the blues.
Here is an easy, 45-minute program to get you started:
- First, warm up. Just walk easily, then briskly for 3 minutes.
- Step 1: Power walk for 2 minutes.
- Step 2: Run fast (but don’t sprint) for 2 minutes.
- Repeat steps one and two 10 times.
- Cool down: Walk easily for 2 minutes.
Note: Please check with your physician before starting any new exercise program.