Thaw out your fitness goals

On a cold winter day, you may find yourself reaching for a good book and hot cup of tea instead of your running shoes.

Stay active to avoid winter hibernation

On a cold winter day, you may find yourself reaching for a good book and hot cup of tea instead of your running shoes and workout clothes. The winter months can take a toll on your activity level, but with a few simple changes you can thaw out your routine.

“Many people’s activity levels decline during winter as they choose to stay in to avoid cold temperatures and inclement weather,” said Joseph W. Greene, M.D., orthopaedic/sports medicine physician, “but regular exercise during even the colder months will keep off winter weight gain and keep you healthy year-round.”

According to Dr. Greene, even the most active individuals can lose motivation in the winter. However, introducing a new workout routine could spark your motivation for success this winter. Keep the following in mind before you lace up your shoes and hit the gym or pavement.

Set realistic goals 
Exercise can be easier if you set goals. Just make sure they are realistic so you don’t get discouraged. Consider trying a yoga class, training for your first 5k or joining a company or local volleyball league. You may not win any medals for your efforts, but that shouldn’t keep you from entering the race.

Be sure to warm up properly
Newcomers to the fitness game as well as regular fitness enthusiasts should make sure a good warm-up that includes stretching is a part of their routine.

“A thorough stretching routine is especially important during cold weather to warm up muscles and prevent injuries,” Dr. Greene said.

Stretching all major muscle groups should also be done at the end of your exercise routine.

Dress for exercise success
For those who would rather hit the pavement instead of the gym, proper attire can keep the chill out. However, one of the biggest mistakes people make is dressing too warmly before they head out in the cold. Exercise raises body temperature a great deal; but once perspiration starts to dry, you can get chilled, causing extreme discomfort and setting you up for hypothermia. Dress in layers that can be removed as your temperature rises, and avoid wearing cotton close to your skin, as it gets wet and stays wet. Don’t forget to cover your hands, feet and ears on cold days, as these areas are prone to extra chill and even frostbite.

If you follow these simple preparations, you may find the cold, brisk air is invigorating and just what you need to energize your winter workout routine.

Fuel your workout

Healthy eating is important for everyone. For those with an exercise routine, it is essential to eat the right foods to fuel your performance while helping you lose or maintain weight.

“Proper nutrition and exercise go hand in hand,” said Shelley Barber, dietitian. “You have to fuel your body with the right foods in order to achieve your fitness goals.”

According to Barber, your diet should consist of quality carbohydrates, lean protein, heart-healthy fats and plenty of fluids. Here are some other healthy eating tips to follow before you lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement.

Don’t skip breakfast. Many people think that skipping breakfast will help them lose weight; however, they are depriving their bodies of necessary nutrients to kick-start their metabolism for the day. If you work out in the mornings, wake up earlier to eat a small breakfast with plenty of complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain cereal or bread, to power your workout.

Watch your portions. Don’t overdo it when fueling for your workout. Pay attention to your meal portions throughout the day, especially a few hours before the start of your activity. Eating too much right before your workout can cause stomach cramps, while meals that are too small can leave you running out of gas in the middle of your routine.

Smart snacking is key. Snacks can add extra nutrients to your diet and give you a quick energy boost. Smart snacking includes staples such as energy bars, fresh fruit, nuts, yogurt, vegetables and whole grains.

Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, before, during and after exercise to avoid dehydration. Sports drinks are recommended after strenuous exercise to help replenish your body’s electrolytes, but not everyone needs them. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends the following:

• Drink 2 to 3 cups of water two to three hours before your workout.

• Drink 1/2 to 1 cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout.

• Drink 2 to 3 cups of water after your workout for every pound of weight you lost during the workout.


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