This long, cold winter has many feeling cooped up. For people who exercise and train outdoors―which is a large portion of Boulder County’s population—the icy paths and sub-zero temperatures make keeping up a regular regimen challenging.
But using the weather to change up movement habits and patterns could be the best thing for more productive and safe training for the rest of the year.
Joe Gambles, an Australian transplant who lives in Niwot with his wife and toddler son, is a professional triathlete. Now 37, he did his first triathlon when he was just 12. Competing and training full-time for the past decade, he does about 10 triathlons a year.
“Some athletes try to keep pushing through their their normal routines, and it’s pretty exhausting to try and do that,” said Gambles. “It’s nice to vary it and keep that mental freshness.”
Growing up Down Under, Gambles wasn’t used to the snow. He uses Colorado’s winter weather for his off-season training.
“I embrace the winter,” Gambles said. “I try and use what Colorado has to offer, which is amazing opportunities to snowshoe and cross country ski.” Gambles also hits the gym in winter about two times weekly and often substitutes a snowy run for something winter oriented, like Nordic skiing.
“Winter is about getting strong and addressing any weaknesses,” Gambles added, ”so as soon as spring hits, you’ll be strong, can race injury-free and have a consistent year.”
Rebecca Rice-Wilson, owner of Integrative Massage of Boulder, believes that winter offers many opportunities to keep moving in ways that will benefit the body in the warmer months.
“Building and maintaining strength in the off season is the most important way to keep yourself competitive and to prevent injuries,” said Rice-Wilson, a licensed massage therapist, Rossiter coach and myofascial-release practitioner.
“Use body weight exercises, which are strength training exercises that use an individual's own weight to provide resistance against gravity,” suggested Rice-Wilson. Some examples include pull-ups, push-ups, planks, squats, lunges and calf raises.
“Not only is the variety of bodyweight exercises important, but also varying the planes of movement to get more bang for your buck. Involve as many planes and varied loads to the movement that you can,” she said. “Building this type of strength will assist you in being ready for your season, as well as protecting you against injury.”
For those of us who aren’t Ironman competitors, but still like to stay active in the warmer weather, Rice-Wilson offers suggestions on how to keep moving and stay injury-free during the more challenging winter months.
“Variety is the key. If you are stuck inside or you are beginning to get back into movement, such as gardening, or exercise, slow and steady is the way to go,” Rice-Wilson said. “I have clients who like to up their game too soon and begin with too high of intensity of movements, such as bootcamps, which can often bring on an injury that keeps them from moving for quite some time.
“Always vary your movement. If you run, try swimming, if you bike, try rowing, and if you ski then maybe try a dance/movement class. The more we vary how we move, the more we can add diversity to our entire body's abilities, such as increased strength, balance and flexibility.”
Rice-Wilson suggests sitting on the floor more often, carrying a small weight along as you move through your daily household routines, and hanging from an easy-to-install pull-up bar daily, adding, “The more I sit on the floor, the more times I’m forced to lift my body weight up and down. It is the variety in our movement/exercise that can bring us into our greatest vitality.”
Rice-Wilson believes that every hour of every day presents opportunities for improved mobility and health, whether or not you’re a hardcore athlete.
“Varying how you carry yourself and adding diverse loads to your body is a way to keep your vitality high and your risk of injury low,” she said.
And that’s a goal that everyone from Ironmen to gardeners can achieve.