Shake up your winter exercise routine
5 winter workout ideas
As the temperature drops, your gym-thusiasm may go into hibernation mode. But winter workouts don’t have to be boring! From a heart-pumping HIIT session to a funky new freestyle dance class, we’ve got you covered until spring.
1. Body-weight circuit
Good for: Full-body strength
Do it: In your living room
Most of us think of a circuit as a series of exercises that should be performed as fast and as intensely as possible. But according to Kurt Vogel, sports scientist and physical performance coach, we have a lot more to gain from doing the exercises slowly and steadily.
“With a small circuit, it’s not necessary to get your heart rate up too high,” he says. “It’s more about building the structure and strength of your muscles. If you can control each exercise by doing it slowly with multiple repetitions, it will make a big difference to your muscular and cardiovascular health.”
Body weight workout circuit
Perform 10-20 reps of each exercise in the circuit below without a break between exercises. Each rep should take you five seconds to perform in each direction (up and down). Take a break at the end of the circuit. Aim to repeat two to three times.
• Squats: Stand, feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and sit back, keeping the weight in your heels. Squeeze your glutes as you stand up.
• Downward dogs: From a high plank position, go into downward dog, then forward to high plank position again. Ensure you keep your back straight and bellybutton pulled in towards the spine.
• Glute thrusts: Lie on your back, feet flat on the floor close to your butt, and slowly raise your hips into the air. Make sure you contract your glutes, not your hamstrings.
• Reverse snow angels: Lie on your stomach, hands above your head. Move your arms down to be parallel with your legs, then up again.
• Dead bugs: Lie on your back, knees bent and arms straight up in the air. Push your left leg down and, at the same time, extend your right arm over your head. Come back to the starting position and repeat on the other side, making sure your core is engaged and your lower back stays flat on the ground.
2. Yin yoga
Good for: Flexibility and mental calmness
Do it: In class or with an app such as yin yoga
This meditative form of yoga requires you to hold a pose for 45 seconds - 5 minutes depending on your level of expertise. Yin yoga aims to improve flexibility, increase joint mobility and calm the mind.
“With some other styles of yoga, you can use your strength to push through and not get the intended benefits,” says exercise physiologist Neil Russell. “But yin yoga teaches you to surrender and accept what’s happening. You can’t force your way through it – you get into the stretch, find where it’s a bit uncomfortable, relax and breathe. It sounds easy, but it can be very challenging. After holding a stretch for a couple of minutes, you’ll often find you’re in a completely different position from when you started because you’ve gone so deeply into it.”
Although yin yoga may not help you lose weight, Russell believes it’s a great addition to any exercise routine. “It can increase your mental strength and prevent or help manage injury,” he says.
Good for: Injecting fun into your fitness routine
Do it: In class or on a DVD (go to theworldgroovemovement.com/class-finder and use the ‘geolocation’ function to find a class near you)
If you love to lose yourself to dance, you’ll go crazy for Groove. A dance workout that encourages people to take simple movements and interpret them as they wish rather than learning a series of complicated steps, Groove focuses on fun and freedom.
“The thing I love most about Groove is the free-styling component,” says Vogel. “It takes away that focus on structured exercise, which can bring us down. When we dance, we’re happy and vibrant – we don’t even realise we’re working hard. And if you go to a class, you get the community aspect too.
“Groove is a great addition to a wider exercise routine that also includes strength and cardio work,” says Vogel.
4. HIIT workout
From just 12 minutes of exercise you can create the metabolic response of a longer workout, but be prepared to work hard. “With high-intensity interval training (HIIT) you repeat a series of short efforts working above your anaerobic threshold, so you use up both fats and carbs for fuel to maintain the intensity. The bonus is that long after you finish, your body continues to work hard to recover and utilises stored fat to do so,” says Vogel. “When you start struggling to talk and gasping between words while exercising, you know you’re above threshold.”
Vogel suggests the 12 Minute Athlete app, which features 185 different HIIT workouts that can be performed in 12 or 16 minutes with or without equipment. “You might do push-ups for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, then do lunges for 20 seconds,” he says.
While HIIT is effective, it comes with two caveats. “Launching right into the workout can lead to injury, so don’t forget to warm up,” says Vogel. “Too much HIIT can also cause niggles and pains, so balance it out with more controlled body-weight circuits, yoga or walking.”
Good for: Cardio, arms and core
Do it: In class or on DVD – find both at poundfit.com
Have you always dreamed of being a rock star? Pound could be just the workout for you! This high-energy “cardio jam session” combines dance, yoga and Pilates with drumming movements performed with lightly weighted drumsticks known as Ripstix.
The good news is you’ll get a solid workout while you’re rocking out. “The constant full-body movement will get your heart pumping and the drumming will activate your core muscles,” says Russell.
Vogel says Pound gets the arms moving more than most group fitness programs. “You might only be holding a light resistance in your hand [each Ripstix weighs 113g], but it makes a big difference when you’re moving it around 200 to 500 times,” he says.
“Using a muscle group you don’t often use will really get your heart rate up and your arms will be stronger when you’re done.”