Tips for Indoor Exercise During the Winter Months

Theodore Shybut, MD, Baylor Medical Center
November 21, 2017

The winter months pose several challenges to physical fitness. The combination of large festive meals, travel, social events, weather changes (and more) breaks up exercise routines and enables greater caloric intake. 

Conditions often prevent sports and exercise that normally take place outdoors, and many athletes have to adjust their routines due to shorter daylight hours. During my intercollegiate rowing days, winter was the “indoor season.” With the river frozen, we trained in tanks, competed on ergometers, and did circuits of pull-ups, bench pulls, and jump squats. Training sessions were often made into individual and group competitions. Winter break became a contest to see who could accrue the most points for physical activity, with points assigned for specific quantities of activity (e.g. 20 push-ups, 30 sit-ups, 1 mile run, 1000m rowed, biking, cross country skiing, swimming, and so on).

These modifications to training are a great example of how to adapt sport or fitness training to the indoor setting. The indoor season can be used to push conditioning, to get stronger and faster. That was our goal with crew—to build power in advance of spring racing. For fall sport and year-round athletes in particular, winter is a good time to recover from injuries or repetitive strain conditions that accrue over a competitive season. Cross training, rehabilitation, and recovery workouts can set the stage for successful return to activity.

Indoor training can be an opportunity to explore new disciplines or sports. Engage an instructor, trainer, or coach. Consider pilates or yoga. During the holidays, try making fitness a family activity—instead of sitting in front of the TV, check out a climbing gym, boot camp, spin class, or other group activity. Finally, keep in mind that some rest is actually important for recovery, so don’t stress out more if you miss a few days of exercise.

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