Home     Women's Health    

6 tips to stay fit this winter

Healthy ways to get through the colder weather

It's that time of year again. Snow falls quietly, a warm fire is roaring, and we are snuggled up on the couch under a blanket, planning holiday parties, making gift lists, and getting ready to work out. Well, maybe not that last thing. After all, who wants to go for a walk in sub-zero temperatures or get into a freezing car to get to the gym or a class? How can we stay in shape over the long, cold months?

Tips from a busy mom
Rebekah Latsch of Montgomery is a busy mom well acquainted with the challenges of staying fit. Earlier this year, Latsch entered the Gold's Gym Transformation 90-Day Challenge and, at 39 years of age, won her age group (30-39). "I felt amazing. Every day I woke up full of energy." Since then, she became very busy driving her ten-year-old daughter Adrianna to softball practices and games, and her team made the all-stars. "It was a whole month of traveling, grabbing junk food and not exercising because I was away."

Now Latsch wants to regain the level of fitness and health she enjoyed earlier but is faced with months of cold weather ahead. "I have a plan, and I'm setting a schedule," Latsch decides. "This will help me stay focused and determined." She plans to attend cardio classes at the gym and pencil each one into her calendar. "Meal planning is also important, especially with a full-time job and two kids at home."

READ MORE: Tips for staying fit as a family

Set realistic goals and keep yourself accountable
Stacy Cameron is an ultra-marathon runner who trains clients and teaches classes out of her Montgomery home. She offers her top tips to help local families stay healthy and fit over the winter. Her top tip is to sign up for a spring event. Cameron says, "I encourage my clients who are runners to sign up for a race in the spring. This way they have to train over the winter. Even if it's negative degrees outside, they have to get out there and do it. The goal is on the calendar." Latsch took this advice and signed up for a springtime race to help keep her on track with her fitness goals. Cameron insists, "If you don't run, sign up for a charity walk, a kayaking trip or an organized hike."

The trick is to set challenging goals that are realistic. "It doesn't have to be all at once," says Cameron.

Another tip is to sign up for prepaid classes. "If you pay for it ahead of time, someone is in the gym waiting for you, so you go," insists Cameron. Finding a buddy to workout with can also be the perfect motivation with that same sense of accountability.

Target your whole body with at home workouts
If you decide to go it alone in your home, there are some great exercises you can do that will work your whole body efficiently. Cardio is key and
Cameron insists on doing something that will get your heartrate up. "Try jumping jacks or jumping rope," she suggests.

Your core should be another main focus. "Push-ups are a great upper-body and core exercise," Cameron points out. If push-ups are too difficult in the beginning, start with a plank and work your way up. If you jump your feet forward at the end and turn it into a burpee, you'll work your entire body and burn a lot of calories.

Target your lower body with squats and lunges using just your body weight to strengthen and shape your lower half.

READ MORE: 6 more tips to improve your health

Use commercials to your benefit
Joe Wiles of Marlboro is a certified personal trainer, boot camp instructor and father of two active kids. Wiles contends it is easier than you think to stay fit over the winter using equipment that is both inexpensive and portable.

One of his favorites is a yoga ball. Wiles suggests, "Watch your favorite television show while sitting on a yoga ball. This strengthens core muscles in a way sitting on the couch won't." If you do an exercise on the ball during each commercial, that is an extra 15 minutes of exercise over the course of one show.

Make healthy choices during the “season of food”
Wiles also stresses the importance of diet. "The more inactive you become over the winter, the easier it is to put on weight." He refers to the winter as the "season of food" and says, "It starts with the Halloween candy that runs out mid-November as you prepare for Thanksgiving dinner and leftovers which may run out just as you start attending holiday parties."

Brian Harrison, owner of Fitness Works Gym in Pine Bush, has a few suggestions to keep those extra pounds at bay.

Limit eating to an eight-hour window. "Seventy percent of our immune system comes from the gut. When we eat all through the day, our gut doesn't get a chance to focus on repair and regeneration." Harrison explains. This way of eating, known as intermittent fasting, improves health and aids in weight loss.

While hearty comfort foods may sound tempting during the colder months, it is important to stay focused on your food choices. "Steer away from cream-based soups and opt for vegetable soups or chili made with turkey and beans," Harrison suggests.

Don't ignore your cravings altogether. There are tons of easy, healthy
substitutions you can make. "Ladle your favorite tomato sauce over eggplant, spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles instead of pasta. You'll get fewer calories and more fiber," Harrison says.

Move whenever you can
Harrison also has suggestions for those who may not be able to commit to a strict fitness program over the winter. You can fit in extra movement in regular daily activities. For instance, park farther away from stores and skip drive-throughs to get extra steps in. Use snow days for family fitness and burn calories while spending time with your family. Build snowmen, have snowball fights and trade the plow for some good, old-fashioned shoveling. "Make sure to warm up inside first and bend your knees while shoveling to protect your back," warns Harrison.

Every little thing you can do will help you feel better physically and mentally. You can enjoy the cold-weather season and emerge feeling fit, healthy and accomplished.

We asked our readers: "How do you stay fit during the winter?"

Shoveling snow! —  Nina R.

If I can't make it to the gym I dust off my exercise DVDs and workout at home. —  Sarah H.

I get outdoors as much as possible. I go hiking, snowshoeing, snowboarding, ice climbing and winter trail running.
—  Lauren F.

I go to Warlock Athletics in Poughkeepsie. The coaches and members are all so supportive of one another. —  Mary P.

I'm a gym rat all the way! Crunch Gym has childcare and ever-changing classes, so you are never bored. As far as my diet, if I don't buy it, I won't eat it!
—  Maureen K.

Meal prep makes it so easy!
—  Shanna K.

Joan Miller loves to cook, lead hypnosis sessions and teach yoga, Pilates and pole classes. Follow her online at HVParent.com/Joan-Miller-Healthy-Life.