Winter means shorter days, frigid temperatures, and foul weather. It’s easy to retreat indoors and hibernate until the return of spring – but winter sports actually have many benefits. They can help you burn calories, increase your cardiovascular fitness and strengthen muscles. Not to mention, being outside and working up a sweat helps to beat back the winter blues. For those who really dread the cold, snoozing isn’t the answer: research shows it’s best to try short, sharp workouts.
Winter is actually a great time to take up a new sport, or to plan a family holiday – anything that will get you moving and out of the house! Here are some tips to pick up a new sport this winter, or to adapt your routine to the colder months:
Hiking is a great activity do year-round. Come winter, all you need to do is switch up your gear to make sure it’s warm and above all, waterproof. It’s a great way to keep fit whilst getting out and exploring the British countryside.
You can even extend your hiking trip for a few days by going camping. The Camping and Caravanning Club has 16 sites open year-round up and down the country. Camping doesn’t necessarily mean tents, however. If you want to be away from the cold (and potential rain) come nightfall, some sites have pods, luxury yurts, or wigwam tents. They come fully equipped; just bring your own linen and food. This is especially useful if travelling with kids: come nightfall, they’ll be grateful to have somewhere warm to play and rest.
Don’t let the low temperatures put you off – running in winter is actually hugely beneficial. Granted, it’ll take extra effort to get yourself out of bed and into the cold, but it is 100% worth it once you’re out there. All it takes is a bit of planning you keep safe and warm.
Before you head off, remember to layer up in running specific, wicking fabrics, and warm up slowly as it takes longer in cold weather. It’s also very important to warm up properly: cold and stiff muscles are more prone to injury. Consider doing some jumping jacks, a job on the treadmill or some light cycling.
Above all, don’t think you need to run by yourself! Teaming up is actually a great way to motivate yourself and be consistent. At the end of your run, make sure you wrap up quickly in dry, warm clothes: your immune system is low after hard interval sessions or long runs.
If you are a keen cyclist in the warmer months, there is no reason to put away your bike come winter. You just need to some good quality cycle lights and warm clothing to stay on the trail in winter.
The first rule of winter cycling is not to overdress: set off in an outfit in which you are a bit cold, but will soon warm up in. The second is to layer up: choose a few thinner garments, and toss on a thermal base layer.
The one thing to bear in mind is that cycling in the winter months will mean dark, not necessarily well-lit roads. This is easy to manage though thanks to LED lights. Bear in mind that if you’re cycling along urban streets, the most important thing is to be seen so it might be worth getting a light that flashes.
Swimming is a great way to keep fit year-round: it exercises the entire body without being hard on the joints, making it ideal for anyone recovering from a sports injury. If you want to keep swimming inside this winter, there’s no big adjustment: just make sure you wrap up warm when you leave the pool to avoid catching a cold. A hot drink after your workout is also strongly recommended!
If you are willing to brave the lakes and ponds come winter, be sure to adapt your gear; consider a full wetsuit if the temperature is very low, and a neoprene cap.
… Or just go for a walk!
Sometimes, the best way to get yourself out of the house is to wrap up in a woolly hat and scarf and take your dog along. Making a commitment to walk your pet during the winter months is great for them. You might be feeling the cold but they love the chillier weather: the pavement is cooler on their paws and they generally love the feel of the brisk, cool air. This is especially good if you are living with a puppy: not all of them are used to being inside all day, and they can get restless. Taking them outside will get you both some much-needed fresh air and activity!