Bootcamp in the Snow

The weather here in Maryland has been very unusual so far this December. We have had several small snow storms, but the temperature has remained low enough to keep snow on the ground. At least where I live, in Western Howard County, we haven't seen any grass for weeks.

Since I am currently on a LONG break from my regular teaching schedule, I have been running my outdoor bootcamp. Whenever possible. We have had a couple of cancellations due to snow and ice, but I have also taught a couple of classes, despite the below freezing temperatures.

Bundling up is key. If you plan to exercise outside this winter, the best way to stay warm is to wear multiple layers. Choose fabrics that wick sweat away from your skin instead of cotton, which will hold moisture against your skin, making you colder once you begin to sweat. By layering, you will trap warm air between the layers of fabric and hold the warmth in. Be sure to cover your ears and head. At my last bootcamp, I wore a headband over my ears, plus two hoods. Yes, I looked dorky, but my ears were warm and my body heat was retained. Remember that you lose most of your body heat from your head, so keep it covered! I also wore gloves plus mittens over the gloves. It is impossible to overdress because you can always take something off.

What types of activities can you do outdoors in this weather? I'm glad you asked!

Because many of the surfaces and structures in the park are currently covered in snow and ice, we have had to make some minor changes in our workout. But there are still plenty of things you can do out there. Just make sure that the surfaces you are walking, running, or exercising on are free of ice and snow. This might mean staying on the roads instead of the sidewalks. At my local park, the roads have been plowed and well-salted so they are dry and safe. Of course, you don't want to run on roads which are being used simultaneously by cars! But the roads throughout the parks are a great choice.

Start with a warm-up. I recommend dynamic stretching as a part of your warm-up. This can include things like high kicks, which both stretch and strengthen your leg muscles. Leg swings are great for loosening up the hips before more strenuous activities like squats and lunges. Knee lifts and hamstring curls will get your heart rate up and begin to warm your body. Jumping jacks and jogging in place will raise that heart rate even further and get your body ready to more vigorous work like sprints and box jumps. Keep in mind that you may need to extend your warm up in the winter months. Don't rush through it. Make sure your fingers and toes feel warm.

Brisk walking and jogging are both excellent aerobic activities which burn lots of calories, keep your heart rate up, and keep you warm. Plan to include at least 20 minutes of aerobics in your workout. If you jog with a friend, you should be able to maintain a conversation but it should be slightly difficult to talk. If you can talk with no hesitation, you might want to increase your intensity in order to challenge your aerobic capacity and burn more calories.

Before attempting any activities on benches, tables, or other structures, be sure to examine them carefully for snow and ice. Because ice can be completely clear, it can be tricky to find. Ice can also hide under leaves which look completely dry on top. Clear your workout area of leaves and trash before attempting anything like squats, lunges, box jumps, or planks.We like to do planks on top of the picnic tables at the park. Bring a thick towel or mat to cushion your joints.

Working out outdoors in the winter can be tons of fun, as long as you take the proper precautions. I strongly recommend bringing at least one friend with you. Look out for each other. Better safe than sorry!