Winter offers interesting exercise options
If you don't like the weather, wait 10 minutes.
I first heard that saying while visiting Maine, but I think there's some truth to it here, too.
Friday was absolutely beautiful. I took in the sunshine and enjoyed a 75-minute walk through the neighborhoods of Coplay. It was so nice out I didn't wear a coat and, at one point, I even took off my cardigan sweater.
Saturday wasn't bad but it was definitely colder. By Sunday, the winds made it feel downright frigid.
I found several sources that say 30 percent of people don't exercise in the winter and, on Sunday, I couldn't say I blamed them.
Still, winter exercise has a number of benefits. For one, keeping up your fitness routine throughout the winter months will prevent you from losing the gains you make over the summer and in the fall.
Why start out this spring trying to make up ground you lost over the winter?
It might motivate you to know your workouts will actually burn more fat in winter than in warmer weather. The reason is your body needs to burn more fuel just to stay warm. Your exercise burns more calories on top of that.
In addition, chances are good that you won't have to sweat too much in order to get a good workout.
So what if you're not into skiing or other popular winter sports?
My husband and I have been going winter hiking on weekends. We drive up to Beltzville State Park or Ricketts Glen State Park and hike the snow-covered trails.
It's really nice because we can get out and enjoy nature without the crowds you'll find on the average ski slope. Yes, other people do go winter hiking but most of the time you can enjoy the trail by yourself.
Ricketts Glen, located about 30 miles north of Bloomsburg, consists of more than 13,000 acres spanning parts of Luzerne, Columbia and Sullivan counties. Its main claim to fame is a series of waterfalls to be enjoyed by hikers.
In January and February, the waterfalls, or portions of them, are frozen, making for an unusually beautiful sight.
A winter hike involves more than just walking on the roads, the local track or a treadmill. The terrain is more difficult than paved surfaces because hikers must contend with roots, loose rocks and narrow pathways. Add six inches of snow to the trail and you'll use muscles you forgot you had!
For those who prefer something a little easier, our area offers a number of rails to trails. Sean and I hiked the Ironton Rail-Trail on Saturday in part because it's paved and we wouldn't have to worry about trudging through mud.
We saw squirrels, bluebirds and other wildlife and, as a photographer, I found it easier to photograph them because I didn't have to work around leaf-covered branches.
We've also recently hiked the Delaware and Lehigh, the Nor-Bath Trail and even done laps on the gravel track at our local park, which straddles the line between Lehigh and Moore townships.
If you're walking or hiking outside, it's important to wear proper shoes. When we hike the snowy trails in the state parks, we wear hiking boots with thick socks and strap-on ice cleats.
Some of the more advanced hikers use bigger cleats called "crampons" which have large spikes on the sides and bottoms for climbing ice. At Ricketts, we were lucky enough to run into two advanced ice climbers wearing crampons and using ice picks to, literally, scale the face of the frozen waterfalls.
While our equipment is not nearly as advanced as the ice climbers', our modest cleats do provide a lot more traction on slippery slopes than regular boots alone.
For anyone interested in getting a pair of cleats, they can be found at many sporting goods stores. If the physical stores are sold out, check online since many sporting goods companies also serve areas where it stays colder even longer than in Pennsylvania.
For those times when the weather is simply too cold, rainy or otherwise ugly, you can move your workout indoors.
Although it's not my favorite thing, I have gone to the mall to walk. I can do nine to 10 laps in about an hour.
Many fitness books, magazines and websites will recommend joining a gym for indoor winter workouts. I have not done so because I want to be outside as much as possible and not feel guilty about not using my membership. But this is a strictly personal decision. Do what works for you.
One option I've used from time to time is the pool at Cedar Crest College. You can buy a pass good for so many visits during a specific time frame and use them whenever it suits you.
You don't have to swim laps. Water walking is an exercise that comes highly recommended for the physical challenge it provides while being easy on joints.
As a last resort, we have a treadmill. When I walk on the treadmill, I usually try to watch TV or listen to music. I will think I've been walking a long time and then look down at the timer and groan, "It's only been 45 seconds!"
One suggestion is to use a treadmill or exercise machine for just a portion of the workout. This will help to alleviate boredom.
In addition to our treadmill I have a step for doing step aerobics and, on a particularly cold day, a good action movie helps keep my mind off how much time I have left. I can usually go for about 45 minutes.
Combine that with a few minutes on the treadmill and then I spend a few minutes with small arm weights and I've had a good workout lasting an hour or more.
I confess I am looking forward to more consistently warm weather. But in the meantime, there's no need to let the cold keep me from exercising.
If today's weather makes going outside unpleasant, there's always tomorrow.
Johanna S. Billings