Gym? Who needs it in the winter?

Once the cold weather hits, it can be difficult to remain active, at least for those of us who don’t frequent the gym. Including me.

But that’s mostly because there are other more fun ways to be active during the winter months, such as snowshoeing. Many, if not most, Mainers would probably argue that trudging through, or simply walking on top of, the snowpack is good exercise.

Snowboarding is another fun winter activity I enjoyed as a kid, and would like to get back into eventually. Who needs to go to the gym when we can tighten glutes by simply trying to maintain balance while sliding down a whitecap mountain at 30 mph strapped into a snowboard? Whether one glides down the mountain gracefully or falls a dozen times, it is, in my opinion, much more amusing than lifting a set of dumbbells.

And let’s not forget about ice skating and sledding. My boyfriend took me to Play-it-Again Sports last winter to buy me a pair of gently worn hockey skates so we could make fools of ourselves at a couple of the local ice skating rinks. I am not exaggerating when I say I looked like Bambi struggling to find my footing on the solid slick surface.

When I was younger, however, I took ice skating lessons and hardly ever fell. In fact, I could execute a figure 8 no problem. I pretty much thought I was two-time Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan.

My point is, whether we are good at ice skating or snowboarding, skiing or sledding, there are several ways to stay fit in the winter. Need some other ideas? Try having a snowball fight, building a snowman or snow fort or making a snow angel.

According to Jeff Eckhouse, owner and personal trainer at Back Cove Personal Fitness in Portland, staying active is critical, “especially as the weather turns cold and the amount of daylight dwindles.”

“The change in the season is really palpable and it’s so easy to stop moving altogether,” said Eckhouse, a certified personal trainer and senior specialist from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

And because it can also be difficult for those who prefer going to the gym over spending time outdoors to stay active as well, especially in winter, Eckhouse said, “finding the support and being held accountable to a personal trainer or larger group is a major motivator, and helps us all stay healthy both physically and mentally.”

He also reminds us that “staying active on a consistent basis really takes the sting out of the long, cold winters in Maine.”

Let’s face it. It’s not easy to keep the weight off when there are several parties and social events during the holidays, where trays of delicious treats tempt us. Even Eckhouse acknowledges that “eating together is a way of strengthening the bonds we have with those close to us.”

However, he said “ramping up your workouts isn’t a bad idea, but don’t let that be your free pass to eat anything in sight. If it’s not a 10 out of 10 on your scale of deliciousness, skip it.”

According to Eckhouse, winter is actually a good time of year to be active, especially if you have the proper clothing. For example, wearing synthetic clothing or wool will keep you warm even as you sweat, whereas cotton doesn’t work as an insulator once it gets wet.

That’s a very good point, and something I will consider the next time I plan on hitting the slopes.

After all, “Staying warm and comfortable is the most important thing you can do to make outdoor activities enjoyable,” said Eckhouse. “You’ll stay positive and be motivated to continue walking, running, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing all winter long.”

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