I live in a part of the country where winter seems to set in before fall is officially finished and sticks around well into April.


The change in temperature typically means that all fitness activity is driven inside. Time spent jogging and hiking becomes time spent on the treadmill and the Nordic Track. My daily dose of sunshine is traded for a daily session of light therapy in front of my trusty SAD Light. And I spend a lot of time yearning for Spring.


But last year, all of that changed!

John and I spend a large chunk of our summer exercise time training for a climb – last year is was summiting Mt. Shasta. In preparation, we fill backpacks with water weight or day packs with fruit and nuts and spend a lot of time racing up the 6200 foot mountain a few blocks from our home.

After successfully summiting Mt. Shasta last year (Yay us!) we decided that the whole mountain climbing thing would be easier if we could keep up our training throughout the winter. So we figured out how. The following tips have helped us get our bodies out of the gym and into the real world – a transition that has made not only our winter workouts more fun but our entire winter more active.

1. Invest in warm clothes.

High quality winter wear can be expensive. I’ve avoided spending money on such staples as long underwear, good socks, and nice fleece-overs for years – which had a lot to do with why I stayed inside during the cold winter months. Hiking in jeans and cotton gloves from the dollar store was pretty miserable. Figure out a way to pick up some staple garments that can be layered – allowing you to adjust your body temperature with a minimum of effort. The best thing about good quality clothing is that if taken care of, they will last forever. And my best cold weather hint regarding clothes – stick them in the dryer for a minute before putting them on (a la Kramer). Starting your winter workouts cozy and comfortable does wonders for your mental state.

2. Be prepared.

Out here in rural Oregon the temperature can change pretty quickly. Add to it a change in elevation and windchill and what started out as a fun workout can turn tragic pretty quickly. Always be sure to carry a little extra gear just in case. A fleece tied around your waist on a run or stuffed in your pack on a hike can make all the difference on a cold winter’s day.

3. Hydrate.

Water. Water. Water. I say it all the time. It is just as important to remain hydrated in the winter as it is in the summer – it’s just harder to remember some times. If you’re running, walking, or hiking, wrap your water bottle in some cloth or stick it under your shirt in order to keep it warm enough to drink. Better yet, heat up a small bottle of tea and take it with you. The heat will dissipate in the cold and the liquid will be just the right temperature when you’re ready for that drink.

4. Sunscreen.

It’s easy to forget sun protection when it’s thirty degrees out, but you still need it in the winter. Think about running or hiking in the snow the same way you would about swimming in the pool. Water reflects the sun. So does snow. Put on the the sunscreen and limp balm the same as you would on a hot July day. Not only will it protect you from a surprise sunburn, it will give your tender skin a little barrier from the wind as well.

5. Pick an activity you enjoy.

As always the more fun you have working out, the more you will do it. So pick something fun! John and I just invested in snowshoes. Now we have zero excuses when it comes to climbing up the hill – and we can forge new routes as the winter snow increases – keeping our winter workouts fresh and interesting – despite the weather.

Always remember to check the weather and use your best judgement about outdoor exercise. And be sure to share any tips, tricks, or activities that you enjoy when the days shorten and the weather turns colder. I’d love to hear your ideas.

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