Outwit Your Winter Workout Slump

It's tempting to take a tip from the bears and go into hibernation mode as soon as the temperature starts to fall, but if you change your perspective on it, winter can be the ideal time to ramp up your workouts. Staying active will allow you to enjoy the tastes of the season without apology or regret. But it's easy to give in to excuses when it's dark at 4:00 in the afternoon and the wind is sending an icy chill down your collar. When those familiar words start creeping into your head, use these six solutions to shut down your negative voice and get after that winter workout.

Excuse #1: It's way too cold to go for my usual walk!

This is the perfect excuse to update your workout wardrobe for winter! To stay comfortably warm (without overheating) during outdoor workouts, you'll want to dress in layers. Look for fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin like polypropylene and polar fleece. (Your old cotton sweatpants just won't do!) Make sure you pay special attention to covering your head, hands and feet appropriately. When you're dressed appropriately, you will never feel cold.

Excuse #2: The sidewalk is covered with ice or snow. I don't want to slip and fall.

While there is such a thing as too cold and too icy for an outdoor workout, most of the time you'll be just fine with a few simple precautions. If your normal walking route takes you far away from home, change it up by zigzagging up and down the streets of your neighborhood so you never stray too far. And be sure to bring a mobile phone with you just in case you get into trouble along the way. Finally, make sure you wear shoes that are designed to grip icy and snowy surfaces. Insulated hiking boots are perfect for walking in the winter. If you'd rather run, look into special traction devices you can attach to the bottom of your shoes for a better grip.

Excuse #3: It's dark when I go into work and dark by the time I get home. I don't want to go outside.

Who says you have to? Maybe you've been meaning to join a gym for a while, well now is the perfect time to do it. Many fitness centers offer membership specials in late December and January to encourage people to keep their New Year's Resolutions to exercise more. And if you're worried that you'll get bored slogging away on the treadmill or elliptical machine, just make sure you join a gym that offers group fitness classes so you can mix it up. Try a dance cardio class like Zumba or feel extra tough taking kickboxing.  You can even get conditioned for summer cycling by taking a Spinning class. If a gym isn't in your budget, remember that you can get a great workout at home with bodyweight moves and online workout videos, too!

Excuse #4: I have family in town for the holidays, so I don't have time to make it to the gym.

Invite them to join you in a fun winter activity like hiking, skiing or ice skating. An hour of ice skating burns about 300 calories—and it's fun! Even holiday shopping at the mall can be a calorie-burner if you take advantage of the crowded parking lot to park far away and offer to carry everyone's purchases.

Excuse #5: I'm just haven't been in the mood to work out lately.

While it's not abnormal to have a little less energy during the cold and dark months of winter, if you're feeling down week after week you may be suffering from a form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Common symptoms of SAD include weight gain, fatigue, irritability, hopelessness and anxiety. No wonder you don't want to work out right now! A simple treatment for SAD that you can do at home or at work is to spend 30 to 45 minutes sitting under a special fluorescent lamp.. Exercise is also a natural mood lifter. Instead of waiting to be "in the mood" to work out, try it anyway, even if it's just for five minutes. Once you establish that routine and get moving, your mood will likely improve. If your symptoms are interfering with your daily life, see your doctor. Prescription antidepressants are also an effective treatment for SAD. Once your symptoms subside, it will be much easier to get your workout routine going again.

Excuse #6: I'm tired of spending so much time exercising indoors. It's boring!

Then it's time to investigate the fun winter sports that are available in your area. Ever tried snowshoeing? It can blast more than 500 calories an hour! Ice skating can burn up to 300 an hour. But what about something really fun? Sledding for an hour, when you're dragging the sled back up the hill repeatedly, can burn more than 450 calories, while a sport like Broomball (think ice hockey for the less coordinated) can burn 470 calories an hour. There's no reason for your workouts to be boring just because it's winter. Be creative, stay warm and get moving!