Once again, you find yourself wrapping up in warm clothes to protect yourself from the chill in the air. You might have gained a few pounds from all the warm comfort meals. Going to the gym (and everything else too!) feels like a chore. All you want is to stay at home with a book, a soft blanket and a hot mug of your favorite tea. You know what all this means: winter is here.
The shorter daylight and frosty temperatures outside limit our opportunities for exercise significantly – or so it seems. However, this is not entirely true. There are actually plenty of winter sports that can help us burn calories and stay in amazing shape. And there’s a bonus too! They’re super-fun and can be a welcome break from your usual workout routine. If you’re a total newbie in the world of winter sports, read on to find out which ones are our favorites, and why.
Why outdoor exercise trumps the gym anytime
During the winter months, even the fanciest gym becomes overcrowded and stuffy. Everyone knows that exercise encourages the release of endorphins, which is beneficial for both physical and mental wellbeing. However, are the endorphins alone enough to beat the winter blues? And yes, in case you didn’t already hear, winter blues are definitely a thing. Getting a combined injection of benefits from both daylight and exercise might be just what you need to lift your spirits. Did you know that being in the forest causes a measurable improvement in physical and mental health? If you can, take a break and get your dose of exercise in the forest at least at the weekends.
A bumpy ride with mogul skiing
If you are already a competent skier, why not try mogul skiing for some extra excitement? Mogul skiing is a variant in which you ski over terrain intentionally covered with artificial mounds or bumps. Think of it as a mix of skiing and bumper cars at the amusement park. Skiing moguls takes some practice and courage, but it’s totally worth it.
The ride down is full of twists and turns, and you might take some time to get into the correct rhythm. Correct use of poles also demands certain practice. When skiing moguls, flexibility is essential. You need to stay loose, otherwise you might harm your joints. In general, mogul skiing is not recommended for those with loose ligaments. Prepare with lots of cardio, squats and step-ups for the legs. Core strengthening beforehand is a good idea too.
Mogul skiing is an excellent cardio workout, and it develops most of your lower body muscles. Due to the hunched position and the constant need to keep or regain your balance, it’s particularly awesome for your core and glutes.
You’ll need: apart from regular skiing gear, you’ll need special mogul skis.
Make your childhood dreams come true with ice skating
Think back on all of the aspects of winter that you loved as a kid, and ice skating competitions on TV will probably rank somewhere pretty high up. It’s a pretty neat skill to have, and skating makes a romantic date as well. Fitness-wise, it’s great because you can adjust the intensity level according to your abilities, skills and mood. Another benefit is that, even as a beginner, you’ll burn tons of calories.
The cardiovascular benefits of skating are pretty high, and it also boosts your overall agility and stamina levels. It is fantastic for working your quads and other lower-body muscles, and can even help you add bone mass.
You’ll need: quality ice skates are a wise investment. They will protect you from injuries, and can last you for ages. Dress in layers, and don’t forget your mittens!
Snowboard with the cool kids
Snowboarding is often seen as the cool cousin of other winter sports. It’s no wonder: the ride is exhilarating. Actually, it’s a really fun way to release all of your tension. If you’re nervous because of its reputation as an extreme sport, there’s no need to worry. An experienced instructor will start you out on gentle slopes at first.
Apart from being a fun way to do cardio, snowboarding is also very intense in terms of burning calories. Like most winter sports, snowboarding is a tough workout for your lower body. However, it’ll also give you abs of steel, because you’ll use them to keep your balance.
You’ll need: If you are a beginner, choose an entry-level board that gives you a sense of stability. Whatever you do, don’t leave without your protective gear. Concussions can really put a damper on your winter vacation.
Replace marathon running with cross-country skiing
Running in the freezing cold is no fun at all. Luckily, if you’re all about stamina, intense cardio and endurance training, we have a worthy replacement for you. Unlike downhill or even mogul skiing, when you do cross-country, you’ll get no help from gravity. With downhill varieties, the strain comes from controlling the way you soar through space. With cross-country, it’s about sheer effort to cross vast distances with no outside help. As you can imagine, cross-country skiing is one of the most demanding sports you could choose. It burns an incredible 600 calories per hour, and strengthens almost all of your muscles. Cross-country skiers typically have strong quads, glutes, abs, biceps, triceps, and shoulders. Basically, their entire bodies are lean, mean, snow-shredding machines.
You’ll need: the length and type of skis you need will depend on your body weight and how groomed your trail is. If you’re planning to cover longer distances, don’t forget to bring snacks, water, sunscreen and a first aid kit. Bring a compass for navigation too, if you intend to leave the beaten path.
Before you don your skis
It’s important to note that many winter sports take a relatively high level of overall fitness. Depending on the sport you choose, you might need to work on certain groups of muscles beforehand. Once you choose, ask your coach to recommend specific exercises to prep you. Most probably, you will need to work on your core and leg muscles. It’s especially important to strengthen the muscles around your joints. After all, the last thing you want is to ruin the season with an injury.
Winter can be tough on all of us. Once the high from the holidays wears off, the rest of winter just turns into shoveling snow and waiting for spring. A good, strenuous workout in the fresh air is just what you need to snap out of it. You’ll have so much fun, you won’t even notice when you shed those holiday pounds.