In fact, winter workouts might be just the thing to get you out of a training rut and give you goals to work toward in the warmer seasons.
According to Pam Forshee, owner of Smoky Mountain Bicycles in Franklin and a competitive cyclist for about 10 years, winter actually gives athletes more opportunities. Instead of strictly road biking, cyclists will often take up mountain biking, indoor spinning classes, swimming and a variety of weight lifting and strength conditioning at their local gym. Some may even work in hiking along mountain trails.
“So there’s a lot of options,” Forshee said.
Smoky Mountain Bicycles recently completed a three-week boot camp for local cyclists looking to stay in shape. Meeting at the bike shop and at the Franklin High School track for an hour each morning, athletes did plyometrics (jumping and agility drills), yoga and stretching exercises under the direction of Laura Bowles, a pro cyclist with Advil/Chapstick.
“We had a great turnout,” Forshee said, adding that she’d like to offer a similar boot camp in the spring.
Despite the recently warm temperatures in Western North Carolina, winter months are typically the time when many athletes have to curtail their outdoor workouts as it gets darker earlier and temperatures dip below freezing. It was often thought to be the off-season for competitive athletes. After all, there’s not as much daylight left after work.
“It’s hard to go out and say I’m going to do a 50-mile ride,” Forshee said.
But more and more competitive athletes are turning the off-season into the cross-training season. As Forshee trains for a half Ironman next year, she’s been working out this winter with a group of fellow athletes who are also competing the grueling swim/bike/run event.
“It really helps when you have a group,” she said.
Whether working out in tandem or having a few amigos along for the ride, you may get more motivated to continue an exercise regimen when you can count on friends being there for encouragement.
Forshee recommends interval training and shorter, more intense workouts that give the body a good strength conditioning where a long, endurance workout might not be possible. Interval training might involve riding at a high speed on the stationary bike for five minutes and then riding slowly for five minutes and repeating that for an hour. Beginner cyclists may try a minute fast, a minute slow for a half-hour.
But as you try different kinds of workouts, remember that your body needs to adjust to using different muscles, so get plenty of stretching before and after the workout.
“Your body definitely goes through a transition,” Forshee said of winter workouts.
If training outdoors, Forshee recommends dressing in layers, wearing gloves and wind-front gear to block out cold air, and avoiding cotton fabrics that tend to hold body sweat and end up making you feel cold. Wicking material, made with polyester fabric is lightweight and keeps the body dryer. These types of clothing and gear can be found at discount stores as well as area sporting goods stores.
“You don’t have to spend beaucoup bucks to stay protected,” Forshee said.
Franklin’s Little Tennessee greenway offers about six miles of paved and gravel trail to ride a bike, run or walk — perfect for both experts and novices.
At the Jackson County Recreation Center in Cullowhee, Wellness Coordinator Jenifer Pressley typically sees more people coming in to work out in the wintertime — especially after the New Year begins and resolutions are made.
“You don’t have to wait until January 2nd to start your exercise routine,” Pressley said.
But, alas, after the holidays, there’s a little more of you to worry about.
An average holiday party full of cookies and snacks can add an extra 1,000 calories to a person’s diet, Pressley explained, and one mile of walking or jogging burns about 100 calories.
But that doesn’t mean you have to run 10 miles after every Christmas party. It might mean you cut back on some of the sweets at these parties and maintain a regular workout routine. Oftentimes, hectic schedules around the holidays leave less room for working out, and by adding in more sugary foods, the body can take on more fat.
One way to fight back is to build muscle. Putting on muscle can help burn more calories, Pressley said, since the more muscle you have the more calories you can burn and the higher your metabolism will be to fend off unwanted pounds.
The recreation center in Cullowhee offers a wide variety of classes for all ages and body types — everything from body sculpting to step aerobics to the intense indoor cycling craze known as “spinning.”
“Spinning is a great way to burn a lot of calories,” Pressley said.
For those looking to start up a regular exercise regimen, she suggests lifting weights two to three times a week with a day’s rest in between workouts to allow the muscle tissue to heal properly. Cardiovascular workouts such as walking, biking, running or stair climbing can be done every day of the week. Pressley recommends about 30 minutes minimum five to six times a week.