Walking for fitness is usually smooth sailing in the summer when the weather is nice, but come the winter weather, motivation does not come so easily. Today I am going to take a look at winter walking and other ways to stay on track for your fitness goals until the sun comes back.
What Is The Winter Walking Problem
Winter walking may not present too many challenges in some warmer climates, but here in the UK, as well as Canada, some of the US, and a lot of Europe, we experience uncomfortable and potentially even dangerous conditions in the winter months.
Too much rain can cause mudslides and flood your walking routes, too much snow, and ice can make the walking conditions slippy or reduce visibility, and if we are too cold we could get ill. Not to mention how uncomfortable it is to be outside when the wind, rain, and cold combine.
It is quite often easier to hide indoors with the heating on and wait for the weather to clear up. Unfortunately, in most places, you will miss your fitness goals if you do not take action even in the cold winter months.
How Do I Stay On Track?
If you miss the occasional day of training, it is not the end of the world, we can all suffer setbacks. The important thing is to make sure your mindset is right. You have to remember your intention is to take action. Do not resign yourself to staying indoors every time the weather sucks.
If you give yourself options, you can build a strategy that will get you through the winter on track. Here are some ideas to help you with your winter fitness goals.
Keep A Flexible Walking Schedule
So you have built up your routine, you know how much walking you will do every day, how long it will take you, which hills you can use and which days you intend to take it easier. This is good, routines are a good way to build momentum and build a comfort zone around stepping out of your comfort zone.
That is until something beyond your control comes along and threatens your routine. Yes you do not need a gym but you do need the outside and it’s cold and snowy. Maintaining flexibility in your fitness routine could give you the option of switching your rest day and taking it a little easier today. You have made a conscious choice, you know when you are going to make it up and you are confident your action mindset is not jeopardized.
However, if it’s snowing again tomorrow, you will need more options.
Winter Walking – Do It Anyway?
Obviously, if the conditions are dangerous, you should not take the risk, but in a lot of places, bad weather is more inconvenient and uncomfortable than it is dangerous.
The cold on its own is generally quite easy to defend against. You need to wear appropriate layers and the secret isn’t how thick the layers are but how many layers and how they are ordered. Our body heat is the source of our warmth so the idea is to trap it so we keep warm even when it’s cold outside.
Depending on how cold it is, you should have at least 3 to 5 layers starting off with a really thin vest or sports undershirt followed by a T-shirt, a sweater, and then a thicker coat. If it is going to rain you can throw a large waterproof over the top.
Not only will more layers create pockets of warmth so your body heat can’t escape, having more layers gives you the option of removing some as you pick up speed and raise your core temperature. Outdoor jackets are usually specially designed with additional layers and can even come with removable fleece lining.
On its own, rain can be quite gentle, just grab a brolly, throw on a waterproof jacket and some wellies (gumboots), and you are good to go. However, if you add in the wind, it can make a walkout incredibly unpleasant. In fact, for this reason, rain is my least favorite weather.
If you go out walking in the rain – try and be as waterproof as possible, but if the water gets into your shoes or clothes, you should head back. Water conducts heat so if you get wet and it is cold out, it might be harder for you to stay warm.
Snow & Ice
We all know Ice is slippy, so appropriate footwear is a must. Something warm with a good grip will be fine but the chances are you will avoid walking on the ice if possible. If you are walking close to roads, be aware of traffic, as cars can quite easily lose control on icy roads.
In the Cities and built-up areas, snow is not usually a big problem, but snow can be a much bigger risk if it is less disturbed. You will have less visibility of where you are stepping and sometimes snow can be slippier than Ice. If Snow has been trampled a bit but is not warm enough for it to melt, it can often create a compact surface, perfect for losing your balance.
Take it easy in sub-zero conditions, walk at a steady pace and pay attention to what is going on around you.
At fortythousandfootsteps.com, we are all about walking. However, because I believe in pragmatism, progress, and success, I am going to suggest a none walking activity occasionally. If you have weights or resistance bands you could try resistance training, or there is a host of exercises you can do at home without any equipment, such as those promoted by the NHS in the UK.
Adding a little variety into your fitness routine can yield massive benefits, However, this website is about walking for health so my final suggestion will be back on topic:
Winter Walking Workout At Home
For me, walking at home has always been a last resort. If I have not managed 10000 steps later on in the day, I will watch Netflix while marching on the spot. I can make it interesting by raising my knees higher or kicking myself in the backside. I can speed up, slow down and add in some arm movements for extra movement but it’s not perfect. It can be distracting if I am not alone and I am not convinced my pedometer picks up every step.
However, during my research, I have come across Rick Bhullar Fitness on Youtube. If you are a music fan, you will love Rick’s approach. He has created a walking workout to reach 3000 footsteps in under 25 minutes right there at home.
My personal favourite is the walking workout to Disco 60s and 70s. Why not check it out for yourself?
Winter Walking – You Can Still Do It!
We all know that we have to manage our health when the weather is bad, but it is so much harder to gather the motivation to go outside. Thankfully you can face the winter music, rearrange your schedule or complete your winter walking from the comfort of home so by keeping your options open you can still walk for health this winter.