*Guest post by Molly Miles
Winter can be hard to get through sometimes. If you’re in a place that lacks snow and winter sports (like I am), the cold and dark seem to do nothing but put a damper on your normal workout routines.
It feels too cold to get outside for a run or a bike ride, and you often miss the sunshine completely if you’re at work all day. This inevitably leads to the uncontrollable urge to just ride out the chilly darkness wrapped up in a blanket on the couch sighing “Yes, Netflix, I’m still watching,” over and over again.
But this doesn’t have to be the way you spend your winter! There are a couple of things you can do to chase away the winter blues and keep up your exercise routine (which is really the same thing, right?).
How to Beat the Winter Blues – Gear Up and Do It Anyways
Yep, I said it. If you like to run or bike outside, and it’s your happy place, get some warm clothes and just do it. Do it even if it’s dark before and after work, even if it’s cold, even if you think you might actually die from frostbite if you set even one pinkie toe outside your nice warm apartment.
The reality is, people work outside all day, every day in colder conditions than you are currently experiencing. People have run marathons on the south pole. I promise, with the right clothing, you can run a few miles around your neighborhood and it will be okay.
What to Wear?
Personally, I’ve worn basically head to toe SmartWool (I own this shirt) in below freezing weather and been fine. It’s expensive, but it’s also light and warm, keeping you cozy without the bulk. I’ve also got a new crush on the wool Injinji socks, which take a smidge of getting used to but also cradle each and every one of your toes in their own personal wool blanket.
Moral of the story? Spend some dollars, get some wool stuff, go outside anyways.
But what about the Darkness?
After all, we all know the night is dark and full of terrors. I’ve normally avoided being outside in the dark at all costs, and was once compared to this clip of Spongebob Squarepants (it was scarily accurate).
However, this winter, I’ve embraced it, and you can too. Get a headlamp, bring a flashlight, or, if the moon is even halfway full, just let your eyes adjust and you’ll be surprised how well you can see. Obviously, practice safety – don’t go into sketchy areas or neighborhoods, tell someone where you’re going, talk a friend into going with you or at least sitting in the car at the beginning of the trail – all common sense things.
After I got over myself and realized the other people approaching on dark wooded trail (you’d be surprised how many people are out and about) were just fellow after-work exercise enthusiasts and not terrifying monsters, I really enjoyed myself.
How to Beat the Winter Blues – Try Something New (That’s Indoors)
If you just can’t muster up the willpower to go out into the cold darkness (or the funds to get good winter gear, it is expensive), try a new indoor workout scene – here’s some of my favorites that have gotten me through various winters over the years.
I spent three years practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), and it was awesome, especially during the winter. You get to be inside, and the workout is like no other. Cardio, core, strength training, coordination…. And all of it is wrapped up in learning a new skill and making new friends.
Plus, you’ll gain so much confidence! Learning something like BJJ is intimidating and scary. You have to work extremely closely with your training partners and push yourself to do things you didn’t know you were capable of (like flipping a grown man over your shoulder, or fireman’s carrying someone who weighs more than you do). You’ll work muscles you never knew existed and realize what you can really do.
Here’s a safety benefit to learning martial arts too – not only do you learn some great self-defense skills (see: flipping a grown man over your shoulder), but more importantly, you feel more self-assured, which translates to more confidence, and that alone can reduce your risk of being attacked. Yes, we shouldn’t have to worry about this, but we live in the world we live in.
Bring out your inner child and go roller skating. It’s both indoors and a lot of fun. And yes, adults do this. In fact, most roller rinks have adults-only nights (although, if you don’t skate well, probably avoid those until you feel more comfortable, they can get intense).
Roller skating is equivalent to jogging in terms of caloric consumption and leg strength development and is easier on the joints. It improves balance and coordination, and you’ll get a good workout for your heart and lungs as well.
Plus, it’s fun! You’ll flash back to old memories as you roll around the rink, listening to the music and watching others having fun too. Also, you get to focus on learning something new to distract yourself from the whole “exercising” thing – if you can’t skate, you build your basic skills, and once you learn those, there’s a whole realm of dances and tricks you can do. It’s never ending!
You can also check out roller skating’s not-so-distant cousin, indoor ice skating (or outdoor, if you live in a cold enough climate). Yes, it’s still cold, but once you know how to roll on those four wheels, a lot of your skills will translate to the blade as well.
This is another great example of an activity that lets you exercise while learning something new. And, bonus feature, if you get really good at it over the winter, you can go outside and try routes when the weather warms up. You’ll have a whole new outdoor activity opened up to you! Can’t get better than that.
Getting into rock climbing is actually a lot simpler than I thought it would be. Just find your local rock climbing gym, walk in, express interest, and they’ll pretty much guide you the whole way through. You can rent all the equipment, and the staff will help you learn, although it does help to sign up with a friend so you’ll have a permanent belayer.
So it’s cold outside. Who cares? Embrace it!
As you can see, there’s plenty of fun things to do this winter, you just have to think outside the box a little bit and be open to new experiences. I think you’ll find that nothing bad comes out of this, only good! Netflix binging is easy and cozy, but it’s not the most mentally healthy thing to do 24/7, and if you’re used to exercising and being outside regularly, it might actually make you start to lose it.
So get out there and do something.
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