Don't Let Winter Weaken Your Workout

How can you make your workout weatherproof?  By bringing your outdoor fitness routine indoors. Running, biking, swimming, soccer and tennis are all popular fair-weather sports but all five are easy to do inside. A gym membership is your best bet for matching the intensity of outdoor sports, but most fitness activities can be done at home. All it takes is a little creativity

  • Running. All gyms have programmable treadmills that simulate outdoor runs with varying inclines and paces.  Many also have indoor tracks that give runners room to roam.  The downside is non-varying scenery. That's where iPods, televisions, books, magazines and a good imagination come in. If a gym and treadmill aren't part of your plan, pop in a movie and run in place in your living room.  Vary the intensity by adding squats, lunges or running up and down stairs but be extra careful on the descent.
  • Biking. Stationary bikes are big players in health clubs and home gyms.  Their manual and pre-programmed settings simulate outdoor rides for all levels of fitness and experience. Spinning classes are the ultimate in indoor group cycling.  They combine fast-paced music with intense instructor (or DVD) lead "rides" that burn as many as 600 calories in one 40-minute class.  If you're more of a solo, go-at-your-own pace biker, follow the boredom-busting advice listed for runners to avoid turning your stationary bike into a clothes hanger.
  • Swimming. The water's fine at your gym or indoor public pool.  Indoor pools and poolrooms are warm enough to minimize cold shock and often come with the bonus of a Jacuzzi (just be sure you actually swim and don't just soak). Many pools offer lessons and training programs in winter months to get swimmers ready for summer competition.  If you're a new swimmer, sign up for  beginner's lessons or join a water-aerobics class.  Experienced swimmers should consider joining a master's swim team for some healthy competition to heat up a cold sport.
  • Soccer. Soccer comes in out of the cold easily. Indoor soccer centers allow fair-weather players to keep their skills sharp with arena soccer. Arena soccer is a little different than outdoor soccer. It's more fast-paced because there are fewer players and a smaller field. If you've never played, winter is the perfect time to start with a few lessons to learn the basics.  By the time spring hits - you'll be ready to take your game outdoors.
  • Tennis. Tennis centers offer indoor courts and plenty of opportunities for lessons. Check out the US Tennis Association for courts near you. No indoor courts?  Try racquetball instead.

What if you live far from the gym or indoor sporting arenas? Stock up on workout DVDs or download new routines on your laptop.  Pull out your exercise mat, exercise ball and hand weights and dust off your elliptical trainer. Use the cold months to concentrate on toning, conditioning and new cross-training activities like kick-boxing, yoga or Pilates. With planning and diligence, your indoor fitness routine may improve your outdoor performance. It may not be as fun as soccer in the park but indoor fitness has it's own rewards, like helping you get ready for swim suit season.