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Embrace winter – take up a new outdoor sport

It’s cold outside and we are in the midst of winter (in case you haven’t noticed).

And, if you continue to work out outside, you’ll be burning more calories, since more energy is required to keep your body warm.

Most people love to hear that magical phrase, “You’ll be burning more calories.” It translates into “I can lose more weight,” and/or “I can now eat more.”

Spending time outdoors has plenty of appeal for many folks, and I’m one of them. Exposure to light is important to me as it provides my body with a good source of vitamin D and it fends off the gloom and sluggishness of mind and spirit that comes often with prolonged periods of being indoors.

Walking and running outside in the winter is not only very doable, but it’s more challenging than using a treadmill. You’re at the mercy of the terrain outside and you can’t lower the intensity of your workout as easily as you can in the recreation center. Beside, the scenery is a little more interesting.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to turn away customers, but I’m trying to encourage embracing options.

Some folks find winter horrid. They hate the cold, they hate the boredom, they hate the shorter daylight hours. Shake it off by embracing winter. Take up a new sport.

Cross country skiing and/or snowshoeing are both easy sports to pick up. They require no expensive equipment purchase and there is little risk or skill involved. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. And cross country skiing is easy to learn and can be done even around your neighborhood. Gear can always be rented at first while you give yourself a chance to check out the new sport. Invest later, after you feel more comfortable with the sport and are ready to make a commitment.

If you are walking or running al fresco, use shoes with good traction and remember the acronym COLD — keep clothes clean (sweat accumulates in clothes, interfering with ventilation and friendships), avoid overheating, layer clothes and keep dry. I like wearing three layers — an outer layer shell, like nylon or GoreTex, to guard against wind and sloppy wet snow; a middle layer of fleece or wool for insulation; and a synthetic layer that wicks moisture away from my body. Cotton is a poor choice.

Keep your hands and head warm, as your extremities are most vulnerable to the effects of the cold. Polypropylene or smart wool socks both insulate and draw moisture away from your feet. You know, don’t you, that as much as 40 percent of body heat is lost from an uncovered head. If you are bald, well, the heat loss is probably more.

I wear sun protection whenever I’m outside and that’s even with my darker complexion. You need sun protection, even if the winter, or, I should say, even more so in the winter — especially if you are in the snow, which reflects 80 percent of UV radiation right at you.

No advice from me is complete without “drink plenty of water.” If you are working hard, you are going to sweat and you must rehydrate or your body will punish you. Have fun this winter!