Working Out in a Winter Wonderland

two women at a snowshoeing event
Obviously, fashion is a HUGE part of winter outdoor activities.

NOTE: The accompanying podcast will drop a day earlier than usual, so watch for it on Wednesday, Nov. 25. That way, you can be on the lookout for all the Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals on the gear we mentioned because you know you’re gonna wanna do alllllll the winter activities. 

It seems that some of you are under the extremely misguided — maybe even dangerous — misconception that summer is somehow the best time to get outside for a workout. 

Now, we’re not going to speculate as to why you’re so profoundly broken or why your parents raised you wrong. But we are here to tell you why winter is by far the superior season for outdoor activities.

Consider the following: 

  • Cross Country Skiing: Who doesn’t want to glide peacefully across a pristine meadow filled with freshly fallen snow while your skis make a gentle, relaxing “swish swish … swish swish” sound? What’s that? Doesn’t sound “hardcore” enough for you? Then what about the 460-600 calories an hour you’ll likely burn? Take that, jogging!
  • Snowshoeing: If you’re not sure you can stay upright on skis, there’s always snowshoeing. Although it’s done at a decidedly slower pace, you’re still burning a metric fuckton of calories, all while getting outside and soaking in some fresh air. Now, we’re not saying you should do any of these activities solely for the calorie burn. There’re a ton of great mental and physical benefits of getting outside, no matter the season. But if you’re deeply disturbed on a spiritual level like AJ and Hillary, well, there’s a good chance you *sometimes* workout just so you can eat more. No judgment, you Judgey McJudgersons. 
  • Back Country Trekkers: These are a little newer on the winter activity scene and are billed as a cross between cross country skis and snowshoes. They’re mostly meant as a way to get out into areas where skis could be a little unwieldy, while also being faster than snowshoes. AJ and Hillary haven’t tried them yet, but they’re looking to rent some this winter, since they are pretty spendy. Watch for more details and a review. 
Yep, that’s AJ and Hillary. Together. Not trying to kill each other despite the elevation.
  • Sledding: Sure, you need the perfect conditions: a goodly amount of snow, a steep hill, someone to pull you up said hill … But this is a fun activity for the whole fam damily, and it won’t cost you a fortune. You don’t burn as many calories as with other activities, but don’t underestimate how strenuous it is to haul your carcass up a big-ass hill. 
  • Fat Biking: We hit on fat biking a little bit in our “BIKES!” episode. As a refresher, with a fat bike, you can typically ride your bicycle (“bicycle! “BICYCLE!”) on groomed snow trails. The pace can be slower than a typical bike ride you might do on more traditional services, like payment or gravel. But the benefit is that if you fall off your bike, you’re a lot less likely to break something … like your head. 

No matter what winter sport you decide to try, you’ll want to keep a few key tips in mind:

  • Pace yourself: The reason so many winter activities burn so many calories is because they ain’t easy. You might be able to hike 10 miles, no problem-o. But that doesn’t translate into being able to snowshoe that same distance. Take it easy, especially when you’re starting out. And fortheloveofalllthatisholy, do some dynamic stretches first. You do not want to be a mile out in the snow and discover you’ve pulled your groin muscle. If you do want to do static stretching, save those for the end after your muscles, tendons, and joints are all warmed up. 
  • Get the Right Gear: Try before you buy. Lots of places either rent or loan gear. Check with your park service for outing dates. And when you’re ready to buy, try Facebook Marketplace, Salvation Army, Craigslist, Play It Again Sports, etc, so you aren’t blowing up your budget before you’ve even seen a flake of snow. With cross country skiing and snowshoeing, your gear will depend on your weight. So, you’re gonna need to have a come-to-Jesus moment about that so you don’t “underestimate” how much you weigh, only to end up chest-high in a snowdrift.
  • Dress for Excess: We go into a lot more detail in the podcast, but the right winter gear will be a huge factor in whether or not you enjoy your outdoor excursions. Try to get the highest quality clothing you can afford. Remember: Layers are your friend. You’re gonna sweat — a lot — so make sure you have a base layer that will wick that moisture away from your body … unless you enjoy feeling like human soup. After that, a mid-weight layer, such as fleece, will keep you insulated as the sweat dries. And for your outer layer, something windproof can keep the cold from cutting through you and giving you the chills. For your bottoms, try for long johns as a base layer underneath some kind of windproof pant. Or opt for snow pants that are lined but not too stiff so they don’t hinder your mobility. Choose socks that are warm but won’t make your feet sweat. Also, avoid cotton materials in any of your clothes; cotton is rotten when it comes to winter conditions. We’ve linked to some of our favorite gear in the “More Info and Deets” section. 
  • Reward Yourself with a Drink: Fiiiiiiine. This isn’t a requirement. It’s just an excuse for Hillary to promote her go-to winter drink: The Hot Toddy.
hot toddy with lemon wheel
You’ve earned the right to be lightly drunk.

Ingredients

  • 1½ ounces of decent bourbon (Buffalo Trace works well.)
  • 2 teaspoons honey (or to taste)
  • 6 ounces water
  • 1 serving of your favorite tea
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon

Directions

Mix water, bourbon, and fresh lemon juice in a microwave-safe mug. Heat until hot but not boiling. Add honey, and stir until combined. Steep tea until the desired strength. Add a lemon wheel or wedge to garnish.

Now let’s hear from you! What winter activity did we leave off the list but shouldn’t have? Shame us in the comments. But not you summer weirdos. You keep that nonsense to yourself.

Further Info and Deets

Check out our “Gear We Love” page for some our favorite pieces of winter apparel.

National Ski Patrol: How To Dress for Winter Outdoor Recreation

REI’s Layering Basics

Bearfoot Theory’s Winter Layering Basics

National Park Service Winter Snowshoeing

National Park Service Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

Some great tips here for what to wear and what to expect.

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