Tips to Start a Winter Walking Routine

You don’t have to assume the “couch-potato” position just because its cold outside, and starting a winter walking routine is easier, and more exhilarating, than you’d think.  For many people, the urge to hibernate as the temperatures drop is a natural one, but also an unhealthy one.  The human body requires physical activity year round, not just when the weather is warm.  And, when we let months pass without any physical exercise, it’s much harder to get back in the workout saddle again.

Most of the time, getting started is the hardest part, so make some short-term goals for yourself, which you are more likely to keep.  For example, make one of your short-term goals to walk at least 2 times a week for 30 minutes.  Another short-term goal you can make is to commit to walking for just 15 minutes, and then give yourself permission to stop after those 15 minutes if you want to.  Chances are, you’ll almost always want to keep going, and you will find it easier and easier to walk for 20, 30, 45 minutes or longer each time.  When motivation is lacking, short-term goals can really jump-start things, so be creative and set short-term goals that motivate you, and are realistic to you.

To start your winter walking routine, and break out of your cold weather hibernation, keep reading for important start-up, and safety tips.

Winter Walking Attire

You lose most of your body heat through your head, hands and feet, so you’ll want to make sure to keep your extremities properly covered.  This means wearing a hat, gloves and warm socks and footwear.  Since you’ll be moving, and obviously generating body heat, pretend that it is 10 – 20 degrees warmer outside than it really is when you plan your outfit.

Always dress in layers that can be removed if needed, as your body heats up.  The layer closest to your skin should be made of a lightweight fabric that won’t retain moisture.  Polypropylene or polyester are good choices.  Cotton stays wet against your skin, making it hard for you to keep warm.  The next layer will insulate you against the cold, so opt for fabrics such as fleece or wool to help keep you toasty.  Finally, you’ll want to wear a waterproof jacket, especially if it’s wet out.

And, don’t forget to protect those areas of skin that will be exposed to the cold and wind.  Windburned cheeks and dry, cracked and bleeding lips are no fun, so make sure to apply a good, protective lip balm and facial lotion to keep your lips and skin moisturized.

Start Your Workout Indoors

Spend 10 minutes warming up indoors before you go outside for your walk.  Do some gentle aerobic-type movement such as a light jog in place, or marching in place.  If you have a stationary bike or mini-trampoline, do a 5-10 minute light warmup.  This 10 minute indoor light aerobic warm-up serves to get your heart rate going, get your joints lubricated, your blood circulating and oxygen flowing throughout all your tissues.

Once you are outside, start off walking slowing, and gradually increase your speed until you reach your desired intensity for your workout that day.  Beginners should aim for 15 – 30 minutes at a time, 3-4 days a week, walking at a comfortable pace.  You know you are walking at a comfortable pace, if you can hold a conversation while you are walking.  More advanced walkers can keep their workout challenging by increasing their speed and distance, or doing interval walking, which is alternating between a fast and slow walking pace throughout your workout.  Advanced walkers should aim for 45-60 minutes, 5 days a week.

Additional Tips

Be aware of the walking route you choose, as the cold winter weather may cause your favorite walking route to be filled with icy patches or huge slushy, muddy areas that you can’t get around.

Unless the conditions are especially slippery, there is no need to change the pace of your workout.  However, it is always a good idea to invest in some good waterproof footwear for walking outside in the winter.

If you do find yourself slipping and sliding while out there winter walking, you can always purchase a pair of clip-on snow cleats.  They are cheap, very lightweight and are highly effective at providing you extra traction on snow and ice-covered surfaces.

Another good add-on, is a set of walking poles.  They help dig into the ice and snow, providing you with extra traction and stability.  Not only that, but using walking poles intensifies your workout by working the muscles in your shoulders, arms and chest, causing you to burn off more calories and fat, while toning at the same time!

Don’t forget to drink your water.  Just because it’s cold outside, doesn’t mean you need less water every day.  You daily water quota is the same in the colder months as it is in the warmer months.  Be sure to drink half your body weight in ounces every day.  So, for example, a 180 pound person would need to drink 90 ounces of fresh water every day.

If you just absolutely cannot tolerate the cold and wind outside, then try walking around the perimeter of your local mall.  Most malls actually have mall-walker groups, and they meet before the mall stores even open, giving you lots of free space to put your “pedal to the metal”.  You might want to leave your cash and credit cards at home though.  This trip to the mall if for walking, not shopping.

So, don’t go into winter workout hibernation just because it’s cold outside.  Many will find that winter walking is quite invigorating.  Just be sure to follow the above safety tips, and you’ll be on your way to a winter-sleak physique in no time!

Bon Veggie Appetit!

Gina ‘The Veggie Goddess’ Matthews

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