Yes, the cold weather is brutal—but you can only take advantage of these winter workouts for four months of the year!
We’re deep in the throes of what seems like an endless winter. The sun is low in the sky, and it’s tempting to slack off and wait out the weather (you’re covered in layers anyway, so who will notice?). But when you feel weak-willed and uninspired, consider these opportunities you have in February that won’t be available in August.
Remember the thrill of breathlessly speeding down a snowy hill atop your Flexible Flyer when you were a kid? Gravity did all the work, right? Not quite. After the ride, you had trudge back up that hill, sled in tow, and do it again. But it was worth it then and it’s worth it now. According to winter sport expert Michael R. Bracko, Director of the Institute for Hockey Research, a 130-pound woman can burn close to 200 calories an hour sledding.
It’s a fast-growing outdoor activity, but if you’ve never heard of fat biking, let us assure you the name has nothing to do with the size of the rider. A fat bike looks a lot like a mountain bike, but sports ultra-wide, almost balloon-like tires with low inflation pressures, making it perfect for operating on soft, unstable, and otherwise unridable surfaces like snow. (Fat bikes are also good for riding on sand dunes.) Many ski areas now rent fat bikes and have dedicated trails. Be sure to wear wicking clothing, because even if it’s cold, you’ll work up a sweat and burn up to 400 calories an hour, according to Bracko.
Feeling feisty? Don’t hurl insults, throw snow—Bracko says a friendly snowball fight is a fun way to relieve stress and expend about 100 calories an hour in the process. As long as you keep it civil, go ahead and pelt your pals!
There’s something fundamentally peaceful about waking up at dawn, putting on snowshoes, and padding through fresh powder after a storm. Snowshoeing is a killer workout too. Joshua Duvauchelle, an ACE certified personal trainer, says snowshoeing can burn more than 600 calories an hour, adding that it “hits your quadriceps when you’re walking up a hill and strengthens your hamstrings when you’re walking downhill.”
It sounds extreme—and less steep and technical climbing (referred by many as “winter mountaineering”) still requires some training and special equipment, such as mountaineering boots, crampons, and ice axes. But there are numerous schools around the country that offer relatively inexpensive introductory courses, such as Eastern Mountain Sports Schools, the American Alpine Institute, and Apex Mountain School. So go get your climb on! At a burn rate of 600 calories an hour, it’s a killer workout.
The blizzard is over and the world is a winter wonderland of fresh, white, powdery goodness. It’s all beautiful…except for the fresh, white, powdery goodness covering your sidewalk, your driveway, and your car. The silver lining that comes with the Mother Nature-imposed chore: shoveling is a great full-body workout. And according to Bracko, you’ll burn between 350 and 450 calories an hour while digging out.