Staying Fit

Cold Outside? Here’s Your Indoor Workout Guide

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By Lauren Rao, M.Ed., AT, ATC, CSCS

When the sun rises after you wake up and sets before you eat dinner, your outdoor-workout habit takes a hit. Instead of an after-work run, you opt for hibernating in front of a fire with a cup of hot chocolate. And it’s not just the cold and dark keeping you indoors; ice, sleet and snow can make outdoor exercise unsafe and uncomfortable.

But there is some good news, too. You can shake off the cold-weather slump by viewing winter as an opportunity to break out of your comfort zone and experiment with fitness. In addition to treadmills, rowing machines and stationary cycles, there are a slew of indoor options. A bonus: Adding novel indoor activities to your routine may help you get stronger and speedier by spring.

Here are a few of my personal favorites for a great indoor workout:

  1. Court sports. Whether you shoot hoops, play racquetball or take up some other indoor sport (broom hockey, anyone?), indoor court sports build strength, stamina and agility. Take racquetball: Because you never know which wall the ball will bounce off of, you’re compelled to do quick sprints and shuffles. That provides a full body workout that engages nearly every muscle group, and the intensity is a good calorie-burner. Plus, since nearly every court sport requires at least one other participant, there’s more motivation to show up and get moving.
  1. Yoga, Pilates, Zumba and barre. People who typically exercise in the great outdoors are prone to forgetting to stretch or focus on balance and strength. That can lead to repetitive injuries. Use the pause in outdoor activities to try classes in yoga, Pilates, Zumba or barre. These may help you perform better at your preferred activity when the weather warms up. Each of these full-body movement classes help improve mobility, strength, balance and speed—all of which give you a competitive edge, no matter which sport you participate in.
  1. Heavy machinery. Treadmills, stationary bicycles, rowers and elliptical machines all offer a solid cardiovascular workout when you don’t want to brave the elements. And with the increasing focus on high-quality equipment and even high definition entertainment, such workouts are rarely boring. If you’re feeling more social, you can find classes that use machines, such as spinning and rowing classes. These give you more motivation to push yourself, and may help you torch more calories. A class like spin or group rowing can burn up to 700 calories in a one-hour session.
  1. Boot camps and niche gyms. Whether you choose Cross Fit, Curves or a community-run boot camp, programs catering to a specific demographic are the wave of the future. Not sure which program to try? Hit Google and search for activities that interest you. Just make sure the people running the program have solid credentials and keep an eye on participants’ safety.
  1. Personal training. Winter is an ideal time to hook up with a personal trainer. He or she can help you find your way around the gym (and learn to squat, bench and pull up like a pro). A trainer also offers built-in accountability, so you’re more likely to reach your fitness goals. Don’t worry. You don’t need to break the bank with weekly sessions. Just schedule a check-in meeting once a month or every few weeks so your trainer can help you stay on track.

Don’t let winter put a damper on your health. If you can’t get out to a gym or class, you don’t even have to leave the house to get a good workout. Simply create an indoor circuit routine with a few props. Grab a jump rope for cardio, jugs of milk or large canned food items for free weights, and focus on exercises you can do at home that work more than one muscle at a time like squats, lunges, push-ups and planks. Exercising in 15-20 minute bursts twice a day (even at work, if you can swing it) offers a solid workout to keep you fit and strong all winter long.

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