5 fun ways to keep fit in winter
It might be chilly outside, but that’s no reason to go cold on exercise. From kayaking to cold water swimming, there are plenty of invigorating ways to stay active.
During winter it can be hard to keep your motivation levels up when it comes to working out, so here we spotlight five exciting ways that will see you having fun while getting fit through the cooler months.
Ever tried snowshoeing?
Fitness Energy director Jane Kilkenny says it is popular in Europe and the US, but receives little attention in AU, US, UK and Nordic.
She gave it a go a couple of years ago at Mt Buller, while training for a marathon in Antarctica.
“I was looking for a way to acclimatise my lungs to alpine conditions and had always wanted to try something a bit different,” Jane says.
According to Jane, it’s virtually just hiking in the snow and is much easier (and cheaper) than other snow sports.
“You don’t need your lift tickets and your expensive equipment.
“You can hire a set of snowshoes at most of our mountain resorts for $25‑$30 for a day.”
One hour of snowshoeing can burn about 4184kJ, making it an exceptional workout that’s also great for endurance training.
Your calves, glutes, hamstrings and core will also feel the benefits, Jane says.
Another bonus? There’s no queues on the trails.
“When you go up to the alpine areas, the ski villages are busy, they’re chaotic, there’s lots of people — whereas with the snowshoeing, you can just step out the back of the resort and it’s beautiful.
“It’s so peaceful.”
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Cold water swimming
Adventurer and motivational speaker Daniel Bull, who set a record in 2020 for the world’s highest swim, recommends plunging your body into the nearest frigid body of water this winter.
While it can feel a little icy for the first few moments, you quickly adapt.
“All you need are your bathers, and what I’ve learnt from personal experience, as well as doing some research, is that cold water swimming has huge benefits for stress relief,” Daniel says.
“We think of muscles in terms of our legs and our arms and things like that, but I think it’s also a really simple but powerful way to flex our resilience muscle.”
He says a dip in the nearest river or bay forces a sense of mindfulness — partly because it’s too cold to think about anything else.
Cold water swimming is also a great, low-impact workout for your whole body.
“It’s obviously that mixture of cardio — heart and lung — as well as muscle endurance.”
Outdoor swimming a bit tricky for you?
Try a cold shower instead.
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While it’s another water-based activity, Daniel goes kayaking for a very different reason than cold water swimming.
“It’s for the soothing effects of nature, the sense of peace and really to clear my mind,” he says, noting that kayaking has given him the chance to see dolphins, seals and stingrays up close.
It’s one of his favourite full-body workouts to keep fit all year round.
“It’s really focused on the upper body, the back — stabilising muscles of the back — and the core,” he says.
Lugging that kayak around also ups the challenge, though Daniel says inflatable options now make it much easier to carry and store a kayak.
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Winter is a perfect time to head for the hills.
“It’s a great escape to actually get out in the mountains — you’ve just got to add a jacket and maybe a different pair of shoes and you can go for hours. It’s just bliss,” Jane says.
Hiking provides aerobic conditioning and “awesome lower-body strength”.
“You’re working through those big muscle groups in your legs and your hips and glutes.”
Jane says uneven trails will also help your core, along with your co-ordination and balance, though it never hurts to ease yourself in.
“It’s like any physical activity — if you go too hard too quick, you risk injury, but if you build yourself up, there’s no limit to how far you can challenge yourself with the right training.”
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Indoor Rock climbing
Gun rock climbers are notoriously lean, so they must be doing something right in the fitness department.
Jane says indoor rock climbing, including bouldering (free climbing without a harness, above mats), is an excellent way to keep moving in winter.
“I think a lot of people picked up on rock climbing when they saw (sport climbing) in the last summer Olympics,” she says.
“It’s a total body-strength workout, so you do need to have a little bit of conditioning in your body.
“I wouldn’t attempt it if you were fresh off the couch, because you’re just going to be miserable.”
However, don’t let that put you off — some basic body-weight training (even swinging on the monkey bars) will have you ready to scale those walls in no time.
Written by Larissa Ham.
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