Why You Need to Workout Outside this Winter
By: Meg Sharp, Director of Personal Training, Cambridge Group of Clubs
When life gives you lemons, squeeze them into your water bottle. Seriously. Lemon water promotes hydration, aids digestion, freshens breath, and is a good source of Vitamin C. And it tastes good.
But we’re not here to talk about lemon water. We’re here so I can convince you to exercise outside this winter. It’s not winter yet – but you need this advice now, because some preparation is required: You may need specific gear, and you ideally need to begin exposure now – before it gets too cold.
But first: let’s motivate you. Here are my personal Top 8 reasons to exercise outside this winter:
- It increases resilience
- It improves mood
- It increases the odds you will participate in other winter activities
- You will likely burn more calories
- You may change your fat profile in a healthy way
- You are more likely to maintain your weight/body composition
- It gives you a dose of Vitamin D
- It boosts immunity
Here’s a little more information on each benefit:
It increases resilience
For most of us, physical exertion in the cold is very uncomfortable. Even properly dressed, the cold air hits the face and throat, and burns the lungs as our respiration rate increases. The muscles don’t respond quite as quickly, so it takes more energy and enthusiasm to get them moving. But the simple act of overcoming all that discomfort, of not running away to a place that is more comfortable, that makes us a little more bad ass. And, of course, you adapt. As the weeks progress, your body builds the right sort of calluses so you not only get better at managing the discomfort, the pain itself ends up being less.
It improves mood
Sunlight or even just plain old daylight for starters provides a huge mental boost. Also, cold exposure specifically increases norepinephrine – a hormone and neurotransmitter involved in focus, attention, and mood. Low norepinephrine is associated with depression. Norepinephrine also increases vasoconstriction which helps you conserve heat. It helps you adjust physiologically to the cold stress. (Helps you become even more bad ass.)
It increases the odds you will participate in other winter activities
Once you’ve figured out exercising out in the cold isn’t so terrible after all, your far more likely to say yes to a winter snowshoe, ski excurstion or hike along the escarpment.
You may burn more calories
Cold weather training often has higher energy demands. One consequence of this is you may need to ensure your food intake is appropriate to avoid decreased performance and early onset of fatigue. Dressing properly will offset some but not always all of this increased energy demand.
You may change your fat profile in a healthy way
Exposure to cold can transform white fat into brown. Brown fat cells – typically much more abundant in babies and children than adults – burn calories to produce heat as opposed to storing calories for later use. These cells also behave more like muscle tissue and use white fat for fuel. Brown fat stabilizes blood sugar levels, which may reduce cravings.
You are more likely to maintain your weight/body composition
This is due to I believe ALL the factors listed above. With maintaining a positive mood and feeling like a bad ass being the most powerful for many of us.
It gives you a dose of Vitamin D
While it very likely won’t replace your need for supplements, sun exposure is an incredibly effective source of Vitamin D!
It boosts immunity
Winter exercise boosts immunity. Of critical importance now, with the extra risks associated with flu season. A few minutes a day can help prevent simple bacterial and viral infections.
Inspiration of the Day
"Muscles, organs, nerves, fat tissue, and hormones all respond and change because of input they get from the outside world. Critically, some external signals set off a cascade of physiological responses that skip the conscious parts of our brains and connect to a place that controls a wellspring of hidden physical reactions called collectively fight-or-flight responses. For example, a plunge into ice-cold water not only triggers a number of processes to warm the body, but also tweaks insulin production, tightens the circulatory system, and heightens mental awareness.” - Scott Carney, What Doesn’t Kill Us
Live Workout of the Day
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Read of the Day
Take this Pandemic Time to Build Your Hockey Performance
Whether it’s the dressing room pre-game banter, the thrill of the on-ice competition, or the comradery of the post-game refreshments, we’ve all been missing our hockey norms this year. Across the GTA, certain regions are closer to or further from our expected norms and the restrictions many of us are experiencing can be frustrating, to say the least.
Thankfully, a silver lining exists, according to the Sport Medicine Clinic’s Chris Broadhurst, who was a former head NHL trainer for 20+ years. The pandemic has offered up the perfect opportunity to improve your hockey performance.
Movement Preparation replaces traditional pre-workout stretching in order to not only improve your current workout but to serve as the foundation to long-term tissue quality. Through these exercises, you’ll lengthen and strengthen muscles with perfect posture and decrease injury potential by improving tissue quality. Add these exercises into your existing routine for 5-10 minutes a day and you’ll enjoy more benefits in less time.
Equally as important is Pillar Prep - Pillar Strength, which is the foundation of all movement. It consists of the hip, torso (or core), and shoulder stability. Movement starts from the very centre of the body, the core area of the torso. We want the hub to be perfectly aligned and stable, so we can draw energy from it and effectively transfer energy throughout the body. Click here to check out a quick Pillar Prep - Pillar Strength workout you can add to your routine.
For those looking for on-ice opportunities, we have more good news. The Clinic’s new Sports Medicine Physician and NHLPA consultant, Dr. Tim Rindlisbacher, suggests keeping up your skating for the sake of injury prevention, “We used to think the body needed to rest each off-season. But for several years we’ve known groin strains can be prevented by participating in on-ice sessions throughout the year.”
Broadhurst, an expert on hockey injuries, also sees the pandemic restrictions as an ideal chance to fix our nagging injuries once and for all rather than stick with the typical pain/rest (ignore) cycle we all tend to follow. He remarks, “Athletes are known to train and play through pain but this causes compensations or “energy leaks”. The number one precursor to injury is previous injury which means that we’ve probably not completely rehabilitated and corrected the issue before returning. We have the ability to assess and screen the players today to ensure that they are not returning to play with these compensations. My advice would be to not believe the injury is healed simply because the pain has subsided. Athletes compensate (cheat!) better than most but at what cost to their overall health and performance? Their bodies believe the old adage, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough”.” Take the time now to eliminate your “energy leaks”. Seek out expert professional care to build your hockey performance.
Lastly, many hockey players, especially those playing in older adult leagues, are justifiably concerned about returning to the hockey environment this season. As the Chief Medical Officer for the Ontario Hockey Federation, it is Dr. Tim’s task to provide advice regarding the safest ways to return to the game, “In terms of outbreaks on hockey teams, there’s a growing body of evidence to show that on-ice interactions may not be the risky culprits they were once thought to be.” He says, “Sitting on the bench shoulder to shoulder, or not wearing masks at all times in the dressing rooms are likely a much larger issue than the very brief times we come within 2 m of other players during a game.”
We all know exercise has a broad range of health benefits. Many hockey players have found other ways of staying active during this “rest” period. While it’s wise to keep moving, it’s also clear that this passive approach to hockey specific demands on our bodies is likely to catch up with us eventually. So, if strapping on the blades is your passion, snatch this ideal time to move closer to your optimal playing status. Your body and your buddies will thank you for it.
Sport Medicine Clinic
Dr. Tim Rindlisbacher
Consultant Sports Medicine Physician
Sport Medicine Clinic
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