It’s cold and dark outside, there are some half-decent shows on Netflix, and you’re still in the Christmas routine of dessert and drinks after dinner (and lunch?). It’s hard to think about being active outdoors, let alone getting bundled up to go outside and do something.
Here are some tips to get you moving. I know that it’s hard to get started, but the cool thing is that after getting out a few times, you will find that it gets easier and easier!
Set a realistic goal for yourself
It is so easy to put off exercise when it’s -30°C and dark. A reasonable goal can be incentive to get (and stay) active this winter. Your goal could be the number of times you are active in a week or a longer term goal of participating in a future event like a 10K run. Either way, make your goal realistic, fun, and motivating.
Walking to work or school may take a bit longer, but it will save you money on gas and make you feel better when you get to work and when you get home at the end of the day. Not to mention, nothing impresses your co-workers more than showing up with a frosty face! By taking a bit more time to get to and from work by walking, you can get your activity and commute done in one outing. You’re killing two birds with one stone! Don’t forget to be safe by using reflective clothing and/or lights when walking in the dark.
Do it with friends and family
It’s easier to stay active when we have someone with whom we can enjoy the experience. Family and friends can also provide much-needed motivation, encouragement and accountability. Find a partner or five and make plans together to stay active. This could mean walking to work together, setting a time to meet regularly for a run or joining a local sports league like hockey. If you’re feeling competitive, you can challenge each other. I have heard of people trying to cover more kilometres than others during a month-long running challenge. There are lots of ideas and everyone needs help staying active so you should have no problem finding activity partners.
Dress for the winter
One of my favourite sayings is that there is no bad weather, just bad clothing, because it’s true! Cold weather requires a bit more thought and preparation, but it shouldn’t stop us from getting outside and getting active. Warm footwear, mitts, and face protection are key, as are jackets and pants that insulate and protect you from the wind. Be careful not to get too warm. Dressing in layers allows you to adjust your clothing to ensure you’re always the perfect temperature no matter what activity you are doing.
While getting outside in the winter has lots of advantages, sometimes it is just easier to stay inside to get your exercise. For some, this could mean joining a gym or sports league. For others, exercising at home is preferable. Yoga, pilates, strength exercises, and fitness routines can all be done in the comfort of your own home.
Don’t beat yourself up!
Take it slow and easy. It’s okay if you miss a day here or there. Everyone is busy and somedays it just doesn’t work to get exercise. Remember that you’re in this for the long run. Try to focus on small steps and slowly progress to bigger challenges. But most importantly, have fun!
If you have other ideas to help us all stay active, please share them on Facebook, Twitter or even old-fashioned water-cooler chat. The more people talk about getting active, the better we will all be at getting started and sticking with it!
Geoff Ray is the executive director of the NWT Recreation and Parks Association.