How to stay active … even when it’s freezing

As soon as the days start to get shorter, I go into hibernation mode.

Because let’s face it – Wisconsin winters are long and brutal. It’s really hard to get motivated to go for a run when your entire street is covered with ice, or the wind chill is 25 below. I know there are those die-hard runners out there who scream, “Just dress in layers!” as they strap mountain-climbing gear to their sneakers and head out into the cold with Vaseline smeared on their faces to prevent frostbite. Sorry. My couch is waaaaaay too comfy to engage in any outdoor activity that has a real risk of forming snot icicles on my face.

So we slow down. We all do it, right? The long bike rides and leisurely strolls are set aside for when warmer temps return – our outdoor aerobic activities limited to scraping windshields and shivering. If it weren’t for leftover Halloween candy, pumpkin pie and Christmas cookies, this might not be such a bad thing. However, staying active in winter not only makes it easier to eventually get back into a swimsuit, it also helps keep away any seasonal depression symptoms.

Here are a few tips for avoiding Wisconsin winter weight gain:

  • Find an accountability partner: It’s much easier to stay focused on your fitness goals when you buddy up. Phone a friend, text your sister, hire a personal trainer – do whatever you need to do. I’m telling you, it is much harder to unwrap that little Snickers bar or reach for a second slice of pie if you’ve got someone to answer to other than your taste buds.
  • Utilize technology: I know moms who swear by their FitBits to keep them moving throughout the day. Personally, I like using the MyFitnessPal app on my phone to keep track of my caloric input and output. A quick Google search nets dozens of other online calorie counters, from FatSecret to Lose It! And in all likelihood, an accountability group is no farther away than your Facebook page. Runners in particular might like the group “Green Bay Moms Run This Town,” which offers real-life meetups at a variety of places and paces.
  • Embrace the cold: There’s only a few months to enjoy winter recreation. Maybe this is the year you finally take the kids snowshoeing at Barkhausen, or cross-country skiing at Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. I’m anxious to check out the fat tire bikes that go on snow at the Brown County Reforestation Camp. And my girls are dying to go to the new Titletown District this winter for skating and sledding. While I’m not exactly sure how many calories sledding burns, I guarantee it’s more than Netflix-binging with popcorn and hot cocoa!
  • Set a goal: Don’t wait until January to make a resolution! Find an event or a reason to stay in shape and write it down. In big, red letters. On Post-Its all over your house. (I’m only kind of kidding.) We have a couple of vacations coming up where I can’t hide my body under bulky layers, so I’m registering for some strategic road races between now and then to keep myself moving and motivated. Noodleini, anyone?
  • Build a backup plan: For those days when it’s just too cold to leave the house, rely on your stash of workout DVDs or turn to your yoga mat. I keep a collection of kettlebells and hand weights in my basement for snow days, and body resistance exercises can be done anywhere – such as sit ups, squats, pushups and planks. Even just 15 to 20 minutes of movement will do wonders for your mood, if not your waistline. Your family will thank you!

What is your favorite way to stay active during the winter? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section!

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