It's the easiest excuse in the "can't exercise" handbook: It's too cold to go for an outdoor workout. If you're a walker who normally enjoys some gym-free laps around town, winter can really wreck your motivation. But it doesn't have to! Try one of these indoor alternatives this season, and you won't even have to break stride in your fitness efforts.
Head to the mall
Many shopping malls open their doors early to walkers. You'll keep company with people from all, umm, walks of life — from new moms with strollers to the senior set. "Mall walking is for anyone committed to walking despite the weather," says Sara Donovan, creator of the Mall of America walking program. But for guaranteed camaraderie, why not bring a friend?
Aside from the obvious weather protection, an indoor shopping mall offers the following perks:
- It's a safe environment. Malls are impervious to daylight savings time changes, plus you can wear headphones without worrying about thugs, dogs, cars or tripping over sidewalks or curbs.
- You have access to amenities. Think bathrooms, water fountains and parking. You can even use the building's architecture to enhance your workout, says Donovan. "Run up the stairs or escalator to bump up your heart rate, and race walk on the smoothest surface you'll ever find."
- There's built-in motivation. There are other walkers, and some malls even have incentive programs, notes Donovan.
- You can window shop. Mall window displays provide interest and distraction. (Some might even consider this a form of multi-tasking!)
Find an indoor track
Think like a student: During inclement weather, gym class moved indoors, right? Check to see if your local high school or university campus gym has an indoor track you can use. There are a number of reasons this option might work for you:
- You'll give your body a break. If the track is rubberized or has a more forgiving surface than the mall or your typical sidewalk route, it may be easier on your feet and back.
- Exercising with others will motivate you. Sometimes the tracks are balconies that encircle exercise areas, squash or basketball courts, so you have a bird's-eye view of people working out. Plus, you'll be close to other fitness opportunities.
- You can take advantage of fitness-club style perks. You may be able to store belongings in a locker and shower afterwards.
If you don't live near a local mall or indoor track, get creative! Find out if you can get access to a large public building, like a high school, where you can walk the halls and stairwells after hours. You might have to go to a school board meeting with a group of interested friends and neighbours to see if the school will allow this activity. While it may be the most complicated venue to secure, this option comes with its own unique benefit: If you have access to a building with several stories, try going up one flight of stairs, walking around that floor, then the next flight of stairs, etc. Alternating stair climbing with walking will be a great interval workout.