How Do You Stay Fit in Winter? [Win a signed copy of Foodist]

by | Jan 27, 2014

Photo by bgbabygirl

Earlier this month I was at the farmers market and asked one of my favorite farmers how he’s doing. “I’ve been out of water for a month,” he told me. “And I won’t have more until it rains. I’m looking for new land.”

It’s been two weeks since then, not a drop of water has fallen, and smoke has filled the skies from the wildfires in the hills.

We aren’t having winter in California this year.

While 75 degree days in January sounds awesome on the surface, it certainly comes with its downsides. As I stroll to the gym each day in a t-shirt and sunglasses hoping that my post-workout shower water won’t be rationed, my brain struggles to imagine what it’s like to fight blizzards and the polar vortex.

That said, even though snow and ice make me feel like a fish out of water, I can guarantee you that I’d figure out a way to get my workouts in regardless of weather.

We all face different challenges to staying fit year round, and we each have to find strategies that work for us and our particular situation. This presents an excellent opportunity to harness the power of the internet and the collective wisdom of Summer Tomato readers to share ideas and solutions.

If you have a specific problem or obstacle making your healthstyle more difficult, you certainly aren’t alone. Similarly, if you’ve overcome a particular healthstyle barrier, there are likely dozens (if not hundreds or thousands) of other people who would benefit from knowing your solution.

If you’ve come up with a way to get regular exercise, 10,000 steps, or stay physically active despite the chilly, icy weather in your town please share your solution in the comments below.

Next week I’ll compile a list of the best suggestions and post it here at Summer Tomato. I’ll also send a free signed copy of Foodist to the person who impresses me the most. (I can’t ship internationally, but you’re welcome to use something like this).

My hope is that by this time next week we’ll have an arsenal of amazing tips to stay in shape throughout the colder months.

How do you stay fit in the winter?


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98 Responses to “How Do You Stay Fit in Winter? [Win a signed copy of Foodist]”

  1. Jaclyn says:

    Being in Oregon, I don’t quite have the obstacle of a polar vortex, but it definitely has it’s less than ideal days through winter. As mentioned in other posts, get a dog! Even though my dogs love being snuggled in the blankets in the warm cozy house, they’re always excited for a walk!

    Before winter I gave up my gym membership as I ended up doing most of my exercising outdoors, which is always preferred! Knowing winter was coming I truly hoped I wasn’t making a mistake. Having dogs really keeps me motivated to go for at least two walks a day, one of them at least 45 minutes. We’ve managed to squeeze those walks into the fleeting moments where the rain stops. Sometimes we miscalculate and it starts pouring. All the more motivation for a jog home! When it snowed, they jumped around with excitement! I’ve learned the art of ‘layering’ and once your blood starts moving, the chill doesn’t even phase you.

    Being outdoors is so rewarding, as is getting exercise in for my dogs and I. However, walking isn’t always enough for total body and spirit. That’s where I opt for a 45 minute yoga session three times a week in the comfort and privacy of my own home. I try to incorporate the things I’ve learned in past yoga and piyo classes to help build core strength and stretch out those winterized muscles! I can work up quite the sweat, and if you turn the heater up, it’s like your own personal Bikram Yoga studio. 🙂
    Afterwards, I feel like a million dollars!

    I still haven’t regretted giving up the gym membership. People have to do what feels right for them, do what they enjoy, and that will in turn have a higher success rate. If you love going to the gym, even better! For me, despite cold, rainy or gloomy days, I love getting out in nature while nurturing the needs of my dogs and I. We have a blast!

  2. Onyi says:

    Apart from joining the gym in my university campus, I’ve also taken up dancing (swing/jive and salsa) which helps a great deal. Dancing two nights a week for about 2 hours on each nights definitely keeps me fit. Plus my weekly advanced step class. Walking everywhere is another thing I don’t compromise on. Luckily England is a small country and getting by can sometimes be done easily on foot.

  3. Dee says:

    The treadmill will have to do…. I don’t have any problem getting to the gym…. But when it’s closed, what’s a girl, I’ll have to be resourceful

  4. Melissa Riggs says:

    I do 20 minute yoga segments and have walking videos.
    I have dogs and that takes us outside, even for a few minutes at a time. There’s always housework as a way to increase activity.

  5. Jason says:

    Deck of cards:
    This workout is for travelers and those confined to hotel rooms and small spaces i.e. snowed in at home.
    shuffle a deck of cards and place face down on a flat stable surface. Each suit represents one exercise: core, cardio, upper body, lower body or whatever needs work.
    For example: Clubs-sit-ups, leg lifts, etc. Hearts-jumping jacks, star jumps, etc. Diamonds-lunges, squats, etc. Spades-push-ups,chair dips, etc. Each card indicates the number of repetitions of the exercise. Start slow with just the face cards at 10 reps each. Then work your way up to a full deck. The process of changing exercises every suit ads variety and contributes to the overall workout. What are you waiting for! Try it.

  6. Carol says:

    Living in Michigan can get quite cold in the winter, and I usually have a house full of children, and I would rather do my exercising at home, so I rebound (jump on a mini trampoline) for 20 minutes at a time 3 times a day. It is an excellent exercise, getting toxins out of your body by getting your lymph moving. Twenty minutes of bouncing is the same as an hour of running, and easier on your knees.
    I use routines from Harry and Sarah Sneiders book, Olympic Trainer, where you use light weights as you bounce. I like it because you can get your exercising done, and then go and do whatever you want. If I am going to take a walk, I want it to be a leisurely walk. I also have any children that are at my house at the time take turns bouncing so they will stay healthy.

  7. Keith says:

    To replace the steps I can’t get outside due to the weather or extreme cold, I use one the restroom in the next building over, instead of the one closest to my office. Then I loop through another building on my way back (all connected by indoor hallways – I work at an undergraduate campus). This adds a decent number of steps and helps prevent me from being seated continuously at my desk for too long. As others have mentioned, I also take a 20-30 minute post-lunch walk through the buildings. At my apartment in the evenings, where there is little space, my girlfriend and I practice moves from a dance class we recently completed. In addition to being a fun activity for us, it gets us moving up on our feet and prevents us from being planted on the couch, which is where we would likely be otherwise.

  8. Kirsten says:

    I have a home dance studio (aka the extra bedroom). My new and currently favorite workout is playing Wii dance games. So much fun and a good sweaty workout! I also have a ballet barre, a Pilates reformer/rebounder, and a varied selection of DVDs that includes everything from kettlebells to bellydancing. I also take Nia classes at the community rec center. Nia is a seriously fun workout that combines dance, martial arts and yoga. Love my fitness options, I never get bored!

  9. Ed Fox says:

    I move my running and cycling indoors to the YMCA once it gets below 40F, but to supplement my workouts I started helping out my “getting older” neighbors with shoveling their walks and driveways. It is a real extra step booster and gets me some strength training as well! Oh and of course they love it!

  10. Jayna says:

    So I grew up in southern CA where there is no winter and then moved out to VA where there is a winter so it was hard for me to transition to freezing for half of the year. But I have learned how to suck it up and walk to school everyday in the frigid temperatures and have supplemented my walking with exercise video’s trying to keep up a more active lifestyle in the winter.

  11. Elizabeth King says:

    Hi Darya, I live in Ontario, Canada & we are in another deep freeze of -35 with the windchill. We also have lots of snow. It is truly an old fashioned winter! I Nordic Pole in the halls of my apt. building which is a one level building. I pole from my apartment at the one end of the building to the other end & back for 1 lap. I do this for atleast 20 laps & often for 25 laps. This is only about 7,000 plus steps & I am working towards 10,000! I have also joined a Daily Yoga Challenge with Alyssa Rimmer who blogs at the Queen of Quinoa. It starts on Feb.1st for the month. I am hoping it will become a daily habit from then on.

  12. Eamon M says:

    Invest a few grand in a vision fitness cross trainer with sprint 8 program on it. High intensity for 20mins a day, not only will you be wrecked after it , you will also increase you’re HGH- human growth hormone by up to 700 percent releasing anti ageing properties.(apparently)
    Alternatively invent you’re own high intensity interval program and burst it open for 20mins a day, works for me…

  13. Cindy says:

    I decluttered my bedroom some more. I put my Yoga mat beside my bed. I exercise with my Yoga or Denise Austin DVD.

  14. Amy says:

    I go to the gym after work 3x a week and try to walk 3 miles every Mon-Fri at lunch year round in Colorado. When the extreme heat, cold or snow make that rough, I’ll walk the aisles of a Home Depot or Lowe’s or shop Costco and get my items out of order so I am zig-zagging all over the store. My office is small so I need to be creative. I’ve also been known to do laps at the mall if I have time to kill on a bad weather day.

  15. Cathy says:

    In the past, I have had a hard time keeping my weight stable in the winter months. Between the holidays and cold weather that makes me want to hibernate, my weight would gradually creep up every year. A little over a year ago, I decided to make a change.

    After reading Four Hour Body, I started on the Slow Carb Diet in September of 2012 (I’m sorry, I know how you feel about diets.) That year, I actually lost weight during the holidays and through the winter months. Though it felt great to get back to my normal weight, I wanted to take a more balanced approach to eating. I just didn’t know exactly what that might look like.

    Then along came Summer Tomato and Foodist. It has helped me to reframe my relationship with food and learn strategies to developing better habits. Now, I am able to stay on track in spite of holidays and other disruptions that get in the way of a constant routine. Working full time and being the adoptive mom of six young kids with special needs keeps me extremely busy. If I can find ways to get tasty (and healthy) food on the table, anyone can.

    For activity, I try to embrace the seasons instead of fighting them. Kids are a great excuse for an adult to do fun things. They love to play outside, so I play with them whenever I can. I love ice skating, which can be enjoyed with older children. Try sledding down the hill at your local park. Trudging back up the hill in boots is exercise, especially when pulling a small child back up the hill on a sled. Making snowmen and snow angels is also fun to do in between shoveling the sidewalk.

    When it gets too cold out, we do drills in the house: pushups, squats, jumping jacks, log rolls, egg rolls, bear walking, crab walking. Doesn’t matter, we just get moving. I also love to get in quick Tabata- style work outs. A four minute blast of exercise is easy to sneak in.

    I just started a short recalibration to get to the next level. It’s nice to have two winters in a row where my weight has been stable and maybe even in a better range than before. Can’t wait to see what the next year will bring! Bet it’s going to be awesome. : )

  16. Judith says:

    Another Minnesotan here! A cardio hater who is totally bored by the usual activities and would poke my eyes out before using a treadmill or stationary bike, I have discovered Zumba. I have gone from one class a week to four classes a week. My computer is set for breaks every hour and I get up and run a YouTube zumba song video (they are about five minutes each) to get my heart pumping. I have Zumba on both Wii and my iPad so I can do it at home, but it does motivate me to get to the gym because classes are so energizing. And you are so hot when you are done that the cold is welcome.

    To ensure that I get a workout in every day, I have a separate fitness calendar that has all the various classes I have identified at the gym, my local yoga studio, community ed, etc. at the beginning of each week, I see how my work schedule looks and pick out what I will do each day. If it is-35 windchill, I figure out what I can/will do at home. I am now adding Bodypump to my classes each week. My Medicare Advantage plan made this easier to get into because they provide free gym memberships through the Silver Sneakers program.

  17. Jessica says:

    Making sure I exercise everyday starts every night. Before I got to bed, I clear my living room on extra furniture, put out my hand weights, exercise ball and my mat, and finally, lay out my workout clothes. When my alarm goes off every am at 545, I am ready! I do 30 minutes of muscular work and the 30 minutes of dancing. I feel so accomplished by 7 and have the day ahead of me. Taking out the hassle of going somewhere and instead working out at home is the way to go for me. I even do this on the weekends because I truly enjoy it. My kids think I look crazy when they come down for breakfast and find me shaking my groove thing!

  18. Emily says:

    I have a ton of ways to stay fit in the winter:
    1. I have a FitBit group going with some relatives on the West Coast – social motivation is the BEST for staying in shape. They have no weather deterrents to keep them cooped up, but I am so competitive that I will easily trudge through the ice and snow just to beat them in our group.
    2. Choose the grocery store/drug store/errand location that is furthest from your house! I have a tough time just getting outside and “going for a walk”, but if there’s a specific destination in mind (especially if it means I get to buy yummy goodies like veggies, chocolate, and wine) then I have no problem getting there.
    3. Follow bloggers for inspiration – one of my favorites ( always does a “Winter Shape Up.” It’s so much easier to stay in shape when someone is telling you exactly what, when, and how much to do.
    4. Find some outdoor activities! I’m a big fan of downhill skiing, but I’ve also really been wanting to try snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. All are great forms of exercise!
    5. Hot yoga. It’s so so lovely to walk into an obsessively warm studio from the 0 degree temps.
    6. Book a warm weather vacation. This isn’t my personal favorite, since I think staying in shape should be a life-long goal and not a temporary thing to look good in a bathing suit, but I know it has brought some great success for friends of mine so I’m not gonna knock it.
    7. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back for getting to the gym. If it’s -20 degrees outside, maybe do a bit of HIIT at home but don’t stress. Because stress is also a horrible way to throw your body out of wack. Just breathe, enjoy the seasons, and smile!

  19. Angela says:

    In Minnesota, in addition to outdoor pursuits such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, we have many indoor options available. For instance, in the downtown areas where I work, we have skyways that connect above ground that enable us to walk from building to building without going outside. Its a great way to get exercise during the lunch hour. Other options include going to the gym or exercising in the comforts of home. Personnaly, I have become a fan of yoga this year and have been practicing along with some videos at home.

  20. Barbara says:

    In November I joined a health club near my workplace. I try to go 3 times a week. On Monday I go for a swim and on Wednesday and Friday for lifting weight and working on machines. On the weekend I try to get 1 or 2 runs in the park in. Depending on my schedule with the family I get from the 5 days aimed 3 days done. And that is fine for me. I walk a lot to and from work and going grocery shopping. Then I am in my club I use the sauna after work out. It boosts the immune and cardiovascular system. Besides that I try to eat healthy and cook every day. One thing I should get better at is dealing with stress at work. I only have a 15 minutes lunch break. If I feel stressed out I go for chocolate.

  21. Jeanie says:

    I am retired, living in remote northern Michigan, so no gyms or classes in
    my world. With artificial knees, I cannot risk falling, ergo no outdoor activity for me in winter other than using the snowblower. But inside I can go up & down basement steps, stretching, isometrics, resistance bands, balance work, kettlebells, body-blades. I do miss not being able to lie on the floor for some exercises, but I have learned to modify and adjust. With this cold snap, it’s a job resisting the urge to park my keister by the fireplace next to the cats. I figure ANYTHING I do is a plus, and staying limber and flexible
    is crucial. I can walk again in the spring.

  22. I keep my focus on fitness during the cold winter days by pairing my workouts with friendship. My favorite strategy for winter fitness – set a goal and pursue it with a friend. In addition to our routine workouts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, my friend and I have both signed up for a 10K run/walk in late March. On Sunday mornings, we meet for a run and then prepare a healthy breakfast together at her home and share in cozy conversation. We swap recipes and encourage each other toward our mutual goal of fitness for life.

  23. Paula says:

    First, I walk to the gym/pool. It’s a cold walk, but I remind myself that it won’t be cold in the building and I definitely won’t be cold after a few minutes of cardio.

    On days when the snow is too deep to walk, I stay at home. I turn up the radiator and do my own version of hot yoga.

  24. Mark says:

    Since I travel a lot with work, having a routine that I can use anywhere is the best option. The weather outside doesn’t matter and no special equipment or facilities are required. I’ve accomplished this routine in tiny hotel rooms and fantastic gyms with fancy equipment. Having a routine like this cuts down on excuses for working out, but I still find it easier to be consisten if I do it every other day instead of every day. I adapt the routine slightly based on what equipment or facilities are available. You can use lots of the workout machines to exercise the same muscles if you have them available, but most of the time I don’t. So, I do push-ups; squats using my computer backpack or dumbbells for extra weight; curls with dumbbells or computer backpack or a chair (careful not to hit myself or anything in the room); calf raises with one leg at a time; lunges with dumbbells or computer backpack for extra weight; pull-ups if I have a bar or door frame that works (otherwise this gets dropped); sit-ups sideways, crossing, and straight on an declined bench or with feet under a bed or table; leg extensions up and out without touching them to the floor while laying on my back; Superman pose, living arms out and up forward with legs up off the floor, with only abdomain touching the bed or floor; dips from the edge of a chair or low table; finally followed by a cardio workout on an elliptical, treadmill, bike, up/down hotel stairwell, or outside run. I finish with a series of stretches.

  25. Shelby says:

    Working out in the winter hasn’t become a problem for me since I found the best work-out regime I’ve ever tried in my life: martial arts! I have never been so excited to go exercise as I have been since I started training in the discipline of Krav Maga. Instead of mindlessly burning calories for the sake of being fit or healthy, Krav engages my brain as I learn new skills in self defense. Loving the exercise I’m doing is the best motivation to keep doing it, no matter what time of the year.

  26. Heather Keppler says:

    I belong to an indoor bootcamp that meets in a gym twice a week. They also send out an at home work out. I save the at home work outs and do those on days I can not get to the gym since I have three little ones at home. I also hate running on the treadmill but I have a list of sprint workouts that I don’t mind doing on the treadmills and I do those twice a week. I also try to hit a yoga class at least once a week. The workouts I do at home or at the gym are HIIT style classes (high intensity interval training). I also follow several fitness people on facebook who send out challenges that I like to try and participate in as well.

  27. Sarah says:

    I have downstairs neighbors who work at home, so cold temperatures present a challenge for me in keeping active. I can’t just use a loud treadmill or stomp around with a Zumba DVD. But I have a new standing desk that should help burn some extra calories even while I’m quietly working.

    I still try to walk most of my errands (may need thermal underwear for that one!). Our condo has nice concrete stairwells that most people here avoid like they have Avian flu in them, so I can get ten or more minutes of stair-climbing without getting in anyone’s way. I also sometimes just do the upper body punching moves in kickboxing DVD’s. And of course, I can still lift weights, do yoga or pilates, etc. without making any loud noises.

  28. Jim F says:

    For me, living in Minnesota the last two years, I have had to shovel an average of two to three times a week. I shovel when I can instead of starting the snow blower, saving the blower for larger snow falls. Shoveling for an hour is a pretty good workout and I think I get as much or more out of it as going to the “Y”.

  29. Lisa B. says:

    Unfortunately, I’m struggling to get fit period 🙂 After years of horrendous fatigue I was eventually diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and a few years later, Fibromyalgia. During this period I quit exercising, ate what I CRAVED – sugar and carbs – and watched my weight b-a-l-l-o-o-n. I’ve experimented a lot trying to find some exercise I can tolerate and am currently working on yoga.

    I recently stumbled upon your site and have really enjoyed reading your posts and mining for suggestions which is exactly what I did with the above comments. I figure if I’m getting this much out of your blog then your book is a must read! Thanks much for your insight.

  30. Ramon Smith says:

    Try snowboarding or skiing.And don’t forget your helmet!

  31. Mary L says:

    I committed to 30 day of Yoga which has been amazing. I am at the half way mark and will continue my daily practice once I reach my 30th day. Also have given up Sugar, Dairy, Gluten, Caffeine.. amazing journey as I experiment with veggies and spices. Love Foodist and Summer tomato!

  32. Emily says:

    While I’m no longer in Michigan for the winters (in Oregon for school) I keep up the same winter workout routine: lots of dancing and winter sports! It is so much easier to work out when going snowboarding for the day or to a dance class in the evening. Now that I’m out west I’ve traded the board for winter hiking, but it has still been a great way to get outdoors and work out.
    Now if only I could get my dance class to happen more frequently than just on Thursdays.

  33. David says:

    Good question. I live in a small north town and there is such a long winter from October to April. Maybe it sounds crazy but in subzero 25 degrees we also play basketball outside! And even it snows! So I thought the problem isn’t the weather but your choice. If you want to exercise, just do it. Weather will never stop you.

  34. Kaitlin W says:

    Weather permitting, I go to the gym to do cardio such as running on the treadmill or using the elliptical. Most days I also do yoga and pilates at home. I have also been planking every day for a little longer than the day before to work my core and arms.

    Another trick: I work on the second floor of an office building so every time I need to use the restroom I go to either the first or third floor so that I can work my joints and muscles by using the stairs. Same goes for when I arrive and leave work: I never take the elevator and only use the stairs.

  35. I try and walk everywhere I can. Take the stairs, not the elevator. When it’s snowy and icy out it can be hard to jog, so I will do a lot more indoor type exercises even though I prefer outdoor activity.

  36. Gary Zdral says:

    I grew up in Michigan and I know the challenges of working out in the cold.

    Of course you can do indoor stuff at the gym or even in your home.

    As far as outdoor activities go, you would be surprised that once you get past the first few minutes of activity the cold feelings go away.

    Its really mind over matter. Did you see the football game the other week where guys played in sub zero temperatures? The quarterback for San Francisco didn’t even wear sleeves.

    I remember running in the cold and yes the first two minutes can be horrible but once you get going you heat up pretty quickly and before you know it you are sweating – even if its 20 degrees out.

    Cold or warm I always recommend that you do something fun that can substitute for exercise. In cold weather go skiing, play hockey or just get into a snowball fight.

    Use common sense. You can exercise when its 20-30 degrees but if its 20 below zero then stay indoors and do what you can inside.

  37. I’m a 23-year old accountant in NYC. Winters are challenging since we work long hours (plus some weekends) with 8 PM being “early”, most of which is spent sitting, eat takeout a lot, and lose sleep. I can’t afford a gym membership and my home “gym” is 4′ x 7′ wooden floor, 2 dumbbells, a kettleball, and a mat.

    I think the trick to staying healthy for me is two-fold: focusing on finding the most efficient/high impact habits to work on + keeping a healthy mind to ensure that you have enough motivation to act healthy.

    For the first part, it’s things like doing high-intensity, interval training workouts/plyometrics/those crazy Insanity workouts (20 mins. vs. running for an hour), chopping all my groceries up on Sunday so cook time during the weekdays is halved, buying healthy snacks in bulk to reduce cravings at work. My focus here is to choose the activities that take the least time but produce the biggest results.

    The second part is to ensure that I’m not too mentally tired to do the above. For me this is: yoga on the weekends, meditation twice a day, Vitamin B supplements, plenty of 5 minute breaks at work, journaling at night. I think we often fail at trying to be healthy because while our intentions are good, our willpower (a finite resource) is sapped at day’s end. Keep the brain at a 100 and the body will follow.

  38. Nads says:

    I live in northern Alberta (Canada), so I’m all too familiar with long, cold, dark winters. I wear a fitbit to track my steps and I hunker down: get dressed for the temperature (snowpants or long underwear when needed), and take the corgi for a rip a couple times a day. Some days, I’m more motivated than others. When the sun is shining and the wind isn’t too bad, I’ll lace up the old sneakers and bang out 4 to 8 miles, otherwise the majority of my cardio is done in our building’s gym. I avoid the dreadmill and stick the stationary, and I make sure to throw in a couple full-body heavy lifting sessions per week.

  39. Susanna says:

    I dance like an idiot 🙂

    Seriously… I just dance to music I love like no one is watching. It’s truly awesome and doesn’t even feel like a workout. I just do it because it’s fun and keeps me happy!

  40. Shawn says:

    I have taken on the mantra “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”. To me, that means do something exercise related, even if it wasn’t what I had planned. Try to get to a Masters swim class 1-2 times per week, yes, outside but the pool is heated. Walk the dog. Do some challenges, like Squats or push ups. Current challenge is 30 days of planks. It is meant to be done 30 consecutive days, but I will be happy to complete 30 at some point. My favorite is Totally free full length workout videos for every fitness level and interest. I am never bored.

  41. I really try to walk as much as I can. BUt the really nice thing is to do snow activties. Skiing and snowshoeing are ways to keep your body moving while enjoy the winter!

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