Fitness ideas for adapting to winter

By Colleen Conners-Pace


As fall turns to winter scheduling a good workout becomes a challenge. This transition can be tough for many of us, whether we are athletes training for races or just people who love being active for fitness and health. What can we do to overcome this challenge and keep ourselves from falling prey to the winter blues, from losing the fitness we gained the past few months and gaining back that unwanted winter fat layer?  Here are ten tips to keep you fit this winter.

1) Embrace the Season Accept and adapt to the season for what it brings. Instead of avoiding the cold, embrace it and make the best of it. Going outside in the winter makes you tough and builds character. 

2) Dress for It You can go out in anything if you are properly dressed for the weather. It will be a much more rewarding experience if you are prepared: there’s nothing worse than being miserable because you are freezing. Dress in layers, and never wear cotton. Wearing a hat saves 70% of your body heat.

3) Try New Winter Activities Take up a new winter sport every year. Some suggestions are: XC skiing, snowshoeing, alpine skiing, snowboarding, winter running, and fat bike riding. There are even multisport triathlon events to sign up for.

4) Work Out in the Morning Working out in the morning may mean getting up earlier, so plan on going to bed at a decent hour. Motivation is the key to early morning winter workouts. Visualize getting up, getting dressed and feeling great. This will help motivate you to get out of bed.

5) Set Goals Sign up for an event. Paying money for an actual event brings a new level of commitment to your training.

6) Join a Class With a scheduled class time you can’t procrastinate. Put the class in your calendar and stick to it like you would any other important appointment.

7) Cardio Activity This season is a good time to work on your aerobic base. Decrease the intensity and concentrate on keeping your heart rate down in your aerobic zone. Use Phil Maffetone’s 180 Formula to calculate at what heart rate you should keep your heart under to develop a strong aerobic base (basically 180 minus your age but see his website to personally dial it in). Training our aerobic energy system will help build fitness, stamina, endurance and teach us to be better fat burners.

8) Nutrition Remember 80% of body composition is what we eat; that leaves 20% from exercise. Think about that. If your exercise drops in the winter months then balance it out with your diet – you might save yourself the agony of losing that unwanted winter fat! (Hint, reduce those carbs!)

9) Dynamic Stretching “Dynamic” means you are moving through the stretch, instead of holding the stretch. This activates the muscle you will be using during your workout. Moving as you stretch improves range of motion, enhances muscular performance, and challenges your balance and coordination.

10) Sprint Increase your energy, improve athletic performance and minimize effects of aging by promoting the release of testosterone and human growth hormones with sprinting. Begin with 6×50 meter sprints (8-20 seconds each) at 75% effort. Be sure to keep effort below 100% for several weeks. Be fully warmed up prior to sprinting.




Colleen Conners-Pace is the owner of Tahoe Peak Endurance and the race director of the Auburn Triathlon, aka “The World’s Toughest Half.” Colleen has a masters in exercise physiology and is a certified USAT Level 1 Coach and Race Director.