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Hot Tips for Cold Winter Workouts

By Dr. Victor Gong, Medical Director of 75th St. & 126th St. Medical, Ocean Pines Medical & Doctors Weight Control & Wellness centers, Ocean City, MD.

As temperatures get colder and evenings get darker, many people scale back their physical activity level. Motivation begins to dwindle and people opt for the car instead of walking or go home to a warm fire rather than going to the gym. What many people don't realize, however, is that winter time need not wreak havoc with one's fitness routine. Below are 4 hot tips to keep you active and in tip top shape during the coldest winter months.

  1. Incorporate wintertime activities into a workout. Activities like snow shoveling or carrying logs for a fire can provide a tough cardiovascular workout that helps build muscles in the arms, legs, and back.
  2. Take time on a cold Sunday afternoon to clean out the basement, attic, or the garage. You'll be increasing your physical activity while cleaning up your home.
  3. Take your workout indoors. Bring your walking routine into a cozy, warm shopping mall in the winter. Swim laps in an indoor pool or play tennis, racquetball, or volleyball on indoor courts.
  4. Try an energetic walk or run in the brisk winter air- it can be an exhilarating experience. Just be sure to dress appropriately! Dress in layers: keep a moisture-wicking fabric like polypropylene next to your skin, porous knitted fabrics in the middle, and windproof fabric as the outer layer. A hat and gloves are also essential.

What's Normal, What's Not

Just starting a walking program? You're bound to feel a few kinks as you adjust. Here's what's normal and what's not.

Shin Soreness:

Usually stems from the fact that you're not used to flexing the shin muscle this much. Walk through it. You have to build up the muscle for it to get strong.

Sore Quadriceps (Front of Thigh), Hamstrings (Back of Thigh), and Buttocks:

Go a bit easier on your next workout. Stretching after warming up and and after walking can help prevent soreness and injury. To relieve pain, take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory; ice tender areas.

Shoulder Tension:

You may be raising your shoulders toward your ears while walking. To stop this, keep your shoulders pressed and your head high.

Pain that Gets Worse with Every Step:

This is not normal, and if it happens, stop exercising and see a physician.

7 Ways to Stay Psyched

Keep up your will power with these strategies:

  1. Keep an exercise journal. It helps you hone in on the positive changes.
  2. Listen to music while working out. It's a great way to rev up your energy.
  3. Schedule exercise: You are less apt to break an appointment that's marked in your calendar.
  4. Recruit a buddy: Having someone to talk to and keep you company while walking makes it more enjoyable.
  5. Be prepared: Keep exercise clothes and sneakers laid out and ready to go. It makes your workout routine more automatic.
  6. Set long- and short-term goals: Having both helps you stay focused and on track.
  7. Admire your body: Whether you've lost 5 pounds or 50, take a moment to appreciate yourself.

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