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The ultimate guide to winter-friendly movement: Feel your best all season!

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With winter right around the corner, it’s a good time to think about the toll weather can take on your daily movement routine. This time of year can be tough for those of us who prefer outdoor activities. As temps dip and daylight becomes harder to come by, the urge to stay inside, all cuddled up and cozy, is hard to resist. But getting an adequate amount of movement is just as important now as it is during any season. If anything, staying active through the colder months (and the treat-filled holidays) will only help you feel better both mentally and physically. Check out these ideas to keep moving all winter—so you can feel stronger, more energized, and more confident until spring springs again. 

Sample at-home winter weekday movement routine

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to mix things up every day, so that you can target different parts of the body and hit all of your muscle groups throughout the week. We recommend getting some cardio most days—and incorporating a rest day so your body can recover. Here’s an example of what a Monday through Friday movement routine might look like. Just remember that everyone’s body and fitness level is completely different, so adjust accordingly.  

Monday: leg day + cardio

Pair a lower-body strength routine (it might incorporate moves like lunges, squats, and glute bridges) with a cardio session. Walking, jogging, dancing, climbing stairs, biking or indoor cycling, swimming, walking in place in your living room, hiking, and playing tennis are all good examples of cardio. See tons more below, too! 

Tuesday: upper body + light cardio

Pair an upper-body strength session (it might incorporate moves like push-ups and tricep dips plus bicep curls, lateral raises, etc. with hand weights) with lower-impact cardio, like a brisk walk. If indoor options work better for you, check out the “Indoor Alternatives” section below or search for “indoor walking workout” videos on YouTube.

Wednesday: rest

Give your body a chance to rest, but still get in a little movement—try a 15- to 20-minute walk, yoga flow, or stretching session.

Thursday: core + cardio

Do a circuit that works your core (it might incorporate moves like crunches, deadlifts, wood-chops, push-ups, and glute bridges) and finish off with a 15-minute run, jog, or brisk walk.

Friday: stretching + light movement

Focus on stretching to improve mobility, fight soreness, and keep your body primed for more movement. We recommend finding a 15- to 20-minute stretching or yoga video to follow along. Add a light jog or walk if you’re up for it, too.  

4 different types of cardio styles to try

Getting a fun and effective indoor cardio session is absolutely possible, especially when you mix it up. You want to get your heart rate up for 5 to 7 minutes, and then bring it down to rest for 1 to 2 minutes—consider that one “circuit”—before repeating. For a solid workout, aim to get in 3 to 5 circuits. The takeaway here is that you don’t have to do the same thing day in, day out—and you don’t have to do a super long session for cardio to be effective. Here are four cardio workout styles to rotate. 

  • AMRAP: AMRAP is an acronym for “as many reps as possible” or “as many rounds as possible.” The idea is simple—you do a set list of moves as many times as you can in a set amount of time. So if your time frame is 20 minutes, and you have eight moves you want to do 30 times each, you just set a timer and get to it! Go through all eight exercises, as many times as possible, for 20 minutes—powering through with, ideally, no rest between rounds. With an AMRAP session, the goal is to take a break and catch your breath only when you need it, to keep the intensity high.

  • HIIT: HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a training technique in which you give all-out, 100 percent effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods. An outdoor HIIT workout might involve ten all-out, 20-second sprints, with one minute of rest in between each—but you can do the same technique with indoor-friendly moves. Jumping rope, high knees, or jumping jacks are all good options. Those with limited mobility can try low-impact HIIT moves like burpees without the jump, speed squats, lunges, and kettlebell swings.

  • LISS: On the flipside of HIIT is LISS, or low-intensity steady state training. In this method of cardio, you do aerobic activity at a low to moderate intensity for a continuous, and often extended, period of time. LISS training is great because it improves your cardiovascular capacity, is accessible to all fitness levels, and you can bring a buddy—one hallmark of doing LISS is that you should be able to carry on a conversation. If it’s not too cold, a brisk walk is perfect. When the weather outside is frightening, hop on a treadmill or stationary bike and go for 30 to 60 minutes at a moderate pace. No equipment at home? Search for “LISS workout” videos on YouTube. 

  • CIRCUIT: If you’ve done any sort of “boot camp class” you’ve probably done circuit training. In this style of workout, you cycle through a combination of moves (six or more) that target different muscle groups with short rest periods between, for either a set number of reps or a set amount of time.

The anytime-anywhere, classic circuit workout 

For those days when you just want to get back to basics and MOVE, try this circuit routine. You don’t need any fancy equipment—just yourself and a workout mat or towel for the crunches. Adjusting for your fitness level, complete this circuit of seven moves 3 to 5 times, resting for 1 to 2 minutes in between each round. That’s it! Want to step up the intensity? You can use the AMRAP method (described above): Power through with no rest between rounds, and complete as many rounds as possible in 20 to 30 minutes.    

Repeat 3 to 5x: 

  1. 10 jump squats or squat pulses: Make sure your knees stay behind your toes; sit back like you’re sitting in a chair and you keep your chest up.

  2. 15 mountain climbers: Keep your butt down and your neck neutral and in line with your spine (avoid looking at your toes).

  3. 5 burpees: As you squat, make sure your knees stay behind your toes. As you lower yourself to the ground, keep your body in line from head to toe—avoid sinking your hips to the ground, and lower your shoulders down and away from your ears. When hopping up to finish the burpee, try to remain light on your feet. (If you need to take it down a notch, check out the burpee modifications in the linked video, starting at 1:57.)

  4. 10 side lunges: As you bend to lunge, keep your knees in line with or behind your toe, and keep your chest up (but don’t force an upright position). 

  5. 30 seconds of high knees or high-knee marches: Try your best to get your knees up to hip level and land lightly on your toes. 

  6. 10 classic crunches: To avoid pulling on your head and straining your neck, try folding your arms across your chest. Hold your core in tight, and, without letting your chin collapse, contract and use your abs—rather than your neck muscles—to pull you up. 

  7. 30-second to 1-minute plank: Keep your entire body in line, hips level with body, shoulders away from your ears, and head in a neutral position; avoid looking at your toes or out in front of you. If you need to modify, hold the position from your knees.

Indoor alternatives to walking, running, and jogging

Some days it’s just way too cold to brave the great outdoors, no matter how many layers you pile up. When frostbite feels imminent, turn to these activities which are easy to do even in a small room or apartment. Go for 20 to 30 minutes (either stick with one movement or combine and alternate), and you’ll get the same feel-good flood of endorphins you do after a good run! Remember, everyone's cardio fitness level is very different. If you’re only able to do a particular exercise for 5 to 10 minutes, that’s totally fine. It’s important to push yourself—but not to your breaking point. Take it slow and gradually add time as you increase your cardio fitness level. You’ve got this!

  • Burpees

  • Climbing stairs

  • Jumping jacks

  • Mountain climbers

  • Jump rope

  • High knees

Extra credit: Master the mini movement session

As counterintuitive as it may sound, sometimes your favorite TV series is all you need to distract you as you get a little more movement into your day. Try doing squats or crunches during commercial breaks—go for as many as you can, at a pace that’s comfortable to you, until your show comes back on. Or if you’re bingeing a Netflix show, commit to doing a set of 10 push-ups (modify to do them from your knees if necessary) before starting each new episode. 

Movement Ideas for when you NEED to get out of the house

Staying inside while you keep moving is all fine and good. But if, come the end of January, you’re feeling some serious cabin fever, you’re not alone. Aside from the checking out group fitness classes—like yoga, indoor cycling, dance, Pilates, and boxing—staying motivated during the chilliest months is sometimes as easy as getting a little creative. Here are some ideas for widely available, winter-friendly activities that’ll get you out of the house. Bonus: The whole family can join in.  

  • Ice skating 

  • Local indoor pool

  • Laser tag 

  • Indoor rock climbing 

  • Bowling 

  • Sports league, e.g. basketball, hockey, or indoor soccer

  • Trampoline park

  • Skiing 

  • Snowboarding 

Need more guidance? Hop online!

If you’re still not feeling 100 percent confident in guiding yourself through a workout routine, there are tons of free guided workout videos on both YouTube and PopSugar. Or you can check out a paid service like Xponential+, Fitbod, Peleton, Obe, Orangetheory, or Beachbody. Just remember that not every workout video is a fit for every person. Start slow and listen to your body.

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