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Don't let winter weather freeze out your workout

Just when you've gotten into a regular exercise routine, along comes winter to throw a wrench into things. Instead of looking forward to your jog around the neighborhood, you find yourself wanting to hibernate and drink hot chocolate.

But you can shake off that cold-weather slump. Just think of winter as an opportunity to experiment with some new indoor activities.

"In winter, it's a challenge, let's face it," says fitness consultant Michael Stefano.

When the weather's warm, we mow the lawn and weed the garden, in addition to swimming, playing tennis, or bike riding.

"It's very hard to recreate that (level of activity) in the winter," says Stefano, a former firefighter who is the author of The Firefighter's Workout. "It's cold and dark all the time."

Short and Sweet

When you don't feel much like exercising, don't exercise much: try a mini-workout. Exercises that work more than one muscle group at a time -- like squats, lunges, push-ups (even modified ones), planks, and dips -- let you wrap up your strength workout sooner.

"Three or four moves, three or four days a week," is Stefano's suggestion. He says 15-20 minutes per session is all you really need to stay strong: "Don't worry about how many sets. Make it short, sweet, and intense."

Ray Khan, fitness trainer and owner of Kickfit Athletics Center in Denver, packs a lot into a 20- or 30-minute workout for his clients.

Here's an example of a creative, compact workout (perform each move for 2-3 minutes):

  • Warm up. Put on some music that makes you feel like moving, and dance around the living room.
  • Walk up and down the steps.
  • Do dumbbell curls and presses (if you don't have weights, use full water bottles).
  • Do assisted squats, keeping your back on a fitness ball against the wall or using the back of the couch for support.
  • Shadow box. Khan uses this simple combination: Lift and lower the left leg; jab with the right arm, then the left; then lift and lower the right leg.
  • Fence (you don't even need swords). Pretend you're holding a sword in each hand. Create an X pattern standing still, then moving forward and back.
  • Hop on your exercise bike or treadmill -- or, for something different, use a weighted hula hoop. If you don't have any of those, just go back to dancing.
  • Do abdominal crunches (hold a weighted ball for added resistance).
  • Cool down with James Brown's "I Feel Good" -- or whatever tune makes you feel good.

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