By Sandra Huskey, First Mile Care DPP Coach

No matter where you live and no matter the time of year, the weather can always provide an excuse to avoid exercise. It will be too hot, too cold, too windy, too rainy, or too humid. (Check out my article on Exercising in the Summer Heat and Humidity.) But you’ve got to get out there and do it as part of a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise will contribute to reversing prediabetes and lowering your blood pressure to keep your heart healthy. (Did you know that February is American Heart Month?)

Preparing for outside exercise requires mental preparation as well as physical. You can warm up inside by doing dynamic movement exercises to get your heart rate up and your muscles ready. However, the mental part is just as important as getting the right nutrition, hydration, and sleep because you need to set yourself a workout routine and keep yourself accountable to it, good weather or bad.

Dressing appropriately

Preparing what to wear is just as important as preparing your mindset. Checking the forecast helps you plan not only the time of day to exercise, but how to dress appropriately. In the winter, be prepared to be a little cold when you walk out the door, as your body will warm up quickly once you start moving.

  • Dressing in layers will not only trap heat between the layers but will also help allow you to shed clothing as you heat up. I recommend starting with a higher necked, extra-long athletic shirt, as you can tuck the shirt into your running tights for an added layer of protection and warmth around your middle and backside. You can add more layers depending on the weather and wind or rain.
  • Regardless of the season, choose moisture-wicking clothing. Cold weather doesn’t prevent you from sweating so it’s important that clothing not become saturated in perspiration or weather-related moisture.
  • Running tights and tops are manufactured for various temperatures. In chillier climes, look for clothing designed to provide extra warmth, usually labeled as cold weather apparel.
  • A hat and gloves are essential as well, and not only for warmth. Even in cold winter conditions, the sun can be bright, so guard your eyes and face with sunscreen, sunglasses, and a multipurpose hat.

With the appropriate clothing, you should be able to continue to exercise outside even in generally inclement weather. However, we all have our own personal thresholds of what we consider too hot, cold, windy, or rainy.

Moving your outdoor exercise inside

If weather conditions are too uncomfortable or even hazardous for outdoor exercise — icy sidewalks, bitter temperatures, flying debris in high winds, etc. — avoid risking your safety and instead, move your workout indoors. The obvious solution is to go to a gym, but if you don’t have access to a gym, you can always make-do by working out at home.

If you have a staircase, you can do intervals of running or walking up and down the stairs.  If you have an open floor plan, you can do brisk walks within your home. You can do a variety of stretching and resistance training exercises using household items. You can get ideas from the multitude of exercise videos and suggestions on YouTube and other internet sites. 

Learning to appreciate the gym

Not everyone loves exercising in the gym, whether in an informal home setting or a professional fitness center. But sometimes all it takes is a few tweaks to your routine to learn to enjoy your gym time more.

Having a clear goal and plan for when you visit the gym will help speed up the workout and keep you focused. Knowing what you’re going to do before you do it helps take the dread out of the workout. Avoid aimlessly wandering from machine to machine. Instead, focus on training a different body area each session, such as upper body one time and the lower body the next, or concentrate on stretching and core, or choose a machine that is specifically for cardio.

If you really dislike going to public fitness centers and prefer perspiring in private, you could look into purchasing in-home pieces of gym equipment, from cardio machines to hand-held weights, balls, or bands.

Making the treadmill interesting

If you normally run outside and are stimulated by the change in scenery, taking your run indoors to the treadmill may seem boring. The goal of treadmill running should be to emulate your outdoor running experience as nearly as possible. Outdoors, there are natural speed and elevation changes based on the terrain and weather conditions. Staying at the same elevation and same pace on the treadmill will exhaust your mind and body. Creating a workout plan on the machine to add variety in speed, elevation, duration, and pace will break the monotony and make more closely approximate your typical outdoor run.

As with any run, you can listen to music or a podcast. An advantage of a treadmill is that you can also watch a movie or television program. However, be mindful of your neck alignment and keep the screen at eye level.  If you are looking up or down, you will strain your neck and your body will be out of running alignment. Your body should remain in as close to your normal running position as possible.

Biking indoors

If you are trying to translate your outdoor run to an indoor spin bike, the main goal should be to target the same heart rate zone as your run. You can achieve this by cadence (spinning quickly) or by varying the resistance levels on the bike.

An advantage of an indoor stationary spin bike is that you can stand up out of the seat for movement that more closely relates to a running motion. The standing position can be added into your overall workout to create variety or intervals, but avoid standing up for your entire workout.

Enjoying whatever exercise that you do

There is no right or wrong or best exercise routine. The single most important thing is that you find a movement that you enjoy, as then you’re more likely to do it on a regular basis. Regardless of weather, some people will always prefer exercising outdoors to benefit from fresh air, daytime sunshine, evening anonymity, and the opportunity to appreciate changing scenery in nature.

 Whatever type of exercise you do, indoors or out, or the exercise substitutions you make, your goal should be to get your heart rate into the moderate active zone at the least — the equivalent of a brisk walk. First Mile Care recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, as per the CDC guidelines for the National Diabetes Prevention Program.

To learn more about how you can benefit from the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program, take the prediabetes risk test and get started today!