Whenever it snows my skier friends get all excited. But some people, like me, just get the winter weather blues. We all know exercise helps beat depression, but having to dig your car out in a blizzard is sure a handy excuse to ignore the gym, and curl up on the couch instead.
Sometimes winter depression is brought on by fewer hours of daylight. But winter blues can also result from feeling worn out by the repeated assaults of ice, snow, and bitter cold. Add the anxiety of hazardous driving conditions, and it is easy to feel undone by Mother Nature’s wrath.
Winter blues may mean you need a change in attitude.
I used to spend Christmas with friends who lived out in the country in upstate New York. There would be a well over a foot of snow outside, but after dinner my irrepressible hostess would announce, “let’s all go cross country skiing!” In the cold. In the dark. But it was fun because she loved it so, and none of us could help but share in her enthusiasm.
Because of my friend, I know that our attitudes about winter can be changed, and the more we make it fun, the less stressful it will be. It’s not as easy if you don’t have a snow loving buddy, but braving the elements can actually make you feel better. You get fresh air, sunlight, and a double shot of aerobic exercise just trying to make it to the curb. Plus winning over the elements can boost your confidence about what you achieve if you want to.
To get the most of winter exercise, keep these tips in mind:
Find cold weather clothes that make you happy. For me, silk long johns and cashmere socks make winter almost welcome. Splurge on brightly colored hats or gloves, water resistant outerwear and snuggly boots that are just plain fun to wear.
Be sensible about weather changes, and aware when the temperature becomes dangerously low. Frostbite weather is not the time to be brave. If the pros say to stay inside, take their advice, and do some yoga instead.
Get walking with traction grips. If walking is your exercise of choice, slippery roads and sidewalks can make you feel trapped inside. But you can beat winter walking blues with traction grips. These are inexpensive, stretchy, wire loop grippy things that you slip over the soles of your shoes or boots, which cut into ice enough to let you walk more securely. Different brands can be found at outdoor outfitters and sporting goods stores, as well as online, and can make walking in winter safer and more enjoyable.
Step up to snow shoeing. Once thought of only for artic explorers and people who use dog-sleds as regular transportation, snow shoes can turn your entire yard into an aerobic workout path. One of the hassles of walking in deep snow is what an effort it is to get anywhere, an effort that can make you feel defeated before you start. Snow shoes let you skim across the top of the snow, are less expensive than skis, and give you a fun activity you can share with your family.
Cross country skiing: a total body workout that gets you places. If you live in the flatlands, or have no desire to ski downhill, cross country skiing could be for you. It’s a terrific total body workout, warming you up all over, getting your heart pumping and helping blues busting oxygen flow to your brain. It is hard to feel depressed when you are invigorated and sailing along in the sunshine, and if you’ve ever seen news stories of people skiing down the streets where no cars can pass, you need never have cabin fever again.
Shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk. What a great way to lend a hand to someone who may need help, and beat depression at the same time. We can pay a gym for weights to lift, but nature provides plenty of lifting to do, which can give us the satisfaction of doing something worthwhile. Be sure you heart is healthy before you do too much heavy shoveling, and use a bent handle shovel to protect your back.
Keep some exercise videos at hand. If you have any floor space at all, there will be an exercise video that fits it. Yoga, tai chi, hand weights or stretchy cords, the options are endless. If people live under you, or your walls shake, floor routines can still get your blood pumping and warm you up on cold days. Some workouts are even available for online streaming, so it doesn’t matter what you do, just do something. Your body and your mood will thank you.
I’ll never be a fan of winter, but I do know that letting it get me down gets me nowhere. Not every cold day may be a fun one, but the more we beat winter blues with exercise, the stronger we will be to beat the bad weather when we need to.
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