Monday, February 2, 2009

Screw You, Mr. Groundhog!

If you're like me, you may have been hoping, praying even, that Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow this morning during the Groundhog Day tradition. Not seeing the shadow tends to signal an early Spring, while seeing the shadow means six more weeks of winter. I was hoping for an end to winter...after all it seems like this winter has been dragging since early November and I'm ready to shed a few layers. But since it seems like winter is persisting, what are a few activities you can do to keep the season from completely going dull?

Try a new class at the gym. If you belong to a fitness center, check out the latest group exercise schedule. New classes--either new times for old favorites or different offerings--are constantly being added to the schedule. And while everything else goes into hibernation in the winter, the gyms are going strong and trying to keep members engaged, or attracting new members in that New Year, New You wave.

Enhance your home gym. Quit saving for that new piece of gym equipment, bite the bullet and buy it now. A tired piece of equipment can make a workout seem like a chore and a new treadmill or elliptical can help make sweating fun again. And with everything under the sun at bargain prices--TVs, clothing, kitchen goods--fitness manufacturers have deals up their sleeves too.

Get outside. OK, this might sound crazy when the highs hover in single digits or less, but people are doing it regardless of the reading on the mercury. If you're in a cold-weather climate, pile on the layers and try skiing--nordic or alpine--or snowshoeing. Both activities keep the body warm and rev the metabolism, plus they don't feel like work. If you have 70-degree days nearly all winter, you're just plain lucky.

Sign up for a race. While the calendar is a little sparce in terms of nearby races, either sign up for a destination event or set your eyes on a Spring race to motivate you to stick to your training. Then you have an excuse to splurge on a trip to Florida and a reason to relax post-race on a beach.

Test a new sport. If you're not training for a particular race or you are bored with your usual routine, mix it up and try something new. Get off the elliptical and force yourself to run on the treadmill for five minutes or more, or hit up the stairclimber. Add weights and strength training. Venture into a yoga class or a Spinning class. I know I just listed several indoor gym options, but this holds true for the outdoors too. Skip skiing and try snowboarding. Go for a winter hike on those same trails you love in the summer--they'll trick you with their scenery.

Read. If you can't participate in a sport, especially due to weather and being off-season, why not read about it so you can apply that information out in the field when the ground thaws. I go to Barnes and Noble all the time and check out the selection of How To books in the sports section and have been telling myself all winter to finish reading Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance or Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes. Not all books have to be instructional though--there are plenty of other great reads to keep the motivation like Bart Yasso's My Life on the Run or John Parker's Again to Carthage.

Now if I could only stick to a few of these ideas myself. Then I wouldn't be plotting an escape to California or going stowaway in a suitcase to Florida. But with the Chicago Marathon registration opening on Feb. 1, at least there's one event to keep my feet moving all year. Photo grabbed from Posted by Kate

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