3 Reasons to Enjoy an Outdoor Winter Workout

It's that time of year when many have moved indoors to workout in fear of frostbite, death or just because they hate the cold. I completely understand, but I'm here to tell you that not only can you make it fun outdoors during the winter months but it can actually help you adapt to the cold better and even keep you healthy. I know this sounds ludicrous and probably contrary to what you've been told, but just hear me out.

Growing up on a farm in the Midwest, I was pretty accustomed to the cold. But it wasn't until I joined the Army and was stationed with the 10th Mountain Division in upstate New York that I really found out about cold. Wow! Our winter exercise policy was that as long as it wasn't less than 25 below with the wind chill, you still did physical training outdoors. I remember my first day out there thinking that it was the end and that they would find my frozen carcass in a ditch.

The instructors got us moving pretty quickly and believe it or not, after about 15 minutes, I started to get pretty warmed up and even to sweat. It didn't take long to figure out that continually moving was the name of the game. When I got out, I started a Boot Camp company in Gaithersburg, Maryland. In the eight years there, we exercised outdoors every winter and many even started to enjoy it. More importantly, everyone began to realize the benefits of being outdoors.

So what exactly are the benefits of getting outdoors in the wintertime?

First, you're outside three months of the year and able to stay pretty healthy. It's better than heading into the gym with everyone else and finding yourself getting sick. Think about it. The gym in the winter can be like a grade school or sitting in airplane; you've got all these people with all these different germs floating around in a confined area. You will be more susceptible. But, I've never noticed a problem in an outdoor boot camp class.

Second, your body will adapt better to the cold and your blood will thicken by being outdoors for 30 to 60 minutes. daily. Many of us head inside when the temps drop below 40, and we don't come out again until spring. Imagine if you sit inside in a heated 70+ degree office all day long. Of course you're always going to be cold when going out. By exposing yourself to the cold, your body will adapt and make this time of the year more tolerable.

Finally, believe it or not, it can be fun outdoors in the wintertime. When were around snow growing up as a kid, I'm sure you lived in it building snowmen, riding sleds and having snow ball fights. Who says that just because we get older, we have to go indoors and stop having fun? At 40 years old, recess is still my favorite hour of the day. Get out there and enjoy yourself while burning a few calories.

Here's one of my favorite wintertime workouts. Remember, the most important thing is that you wear the appropriate cold-weather clothing and that you keep moving. Try to find either a long set of stairs, a basketball court or 400m track.

  • Start off with a 5 to 10 minute warm-up
  • Beginners (try 10 reps), intermediate(25 reps) and advanced (50reps) to begin
  • 10 or 25 or 50 regular push-ups
  • 10/25/50 crunches -- elbows to knee
  • 10/25/50 modified pull-ups palms facing away (regular bar pull-ups may want to do set of 10)
  • 10/25/50 bench dips
  • 10/25/50 alternating bench step-ups
  • Run EITHER -- 1 stair repeat, 1 court suicide or 1 lap
  • REPEAT  with the following reps
  • 10 or 20 or 40 wide push-ups
  • 10/20/40 crunches -- alternating elbows to knee
  • 10/20/40 modified chin-ups palms facing you (regular bar chin-ups may want to do set of 10)
  • 10/20/40 bench dips
  • 10/20/40 alternating bench step-ups
  • Run EITHER -- 1 stair repeat, 1 court suicide or 1 lap
  • 10 or 15 or 30 diamond push-ups
  • 10/15/30 full sit-ups
  • 10/15/30 modified pull-ups thumbs touching(regular bar pull-ups may want to do sets of 10)
  • 10/15/30 bench dips
  • 10/15/30 alternating bench step-ups
  • Cool down with 5-10 min. of jogging
  • Stretch for 5-10 min.

Remember if you're going outside in the wintertime, take a friend to enjoy the good time or let someone know that you're out there. It's always better to be safe than sorry. I hope this motivates some of you to get out there and enjoy the brisk, invigorating cold weather. Don't just follow the masses inside. Like Robert Frost said, "Try taking the road less traveled." Have fun!

Active Expert, Joe Decker isan ultra-endurance power athlete and renowned fitness trainer who hashelped thousands of people get into shape. He has completed many of theworld's toughest endurance events, including the Badwater 135, and theGrand Slam of UltraRunning. In 2000, Joe broke the Guinness WorldRecords? Twenty-four-hour Physical Fitness Challenge to help inspireand motivate people to get fit. He is recognized as "The World'sFittest Man." Visit his website at www.joe-decker.com. You can also sign up for a customized strength training plan by Joe on Active Trainer.


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