Ahh, winter! Shorter days. Frigid temperatures. Foul weather. What better time to be outdoors?
Winter sports can help you burn calories, increase your cardiovascular fitness, and strengthen muscles. Activities that are weight-bearing (like cross-country skiing or skating) help build stronger and denser bones.
Being outdoors and getting exercise are great for your mental health. Exercise boosts mood, and sunlight seems to help beat back the winter blues. So slap on some sunblock (yes, you'll need it!) and go.
If you're not a winter sports lover and need some convincing, there's this: staying in shape during the winter gets you physically ready for springtime activities (and wardrobes).
Winter is a great time to experiment with new sports. The trick is to find one that matches your interests and natural abilities. If you like to walk, keep walking — on snowshoes. If you want to try an endurance sport, go for cross-country skiing. And snowboarding is just plain fun.
Alpine (downhill) skiing isn't as hard as it used to be — shorter, lightweight, curved skis make any beginner feel like an Olympian. These newer skis — along with another type of equipment called skiboards, which are even shorter than skis — help you control your speed and body movements.
Consider testing the latest high-tech skis or snowboards. Check with your local sports shop or the rental places at ski mountains about demo programs.
You could also try sledding. Or, if you prefer ice to snow, think hockey or figure skating.
Runners can also train during the winter, although beware of wet or slippery roads. Or slip on a pair of snowshoes. One of the easiest sports around, snowshoeing can be excellent cold-weather cross-training for runners and cyclists — or anyone wanting to take a wintry walk in the woods. Snowshoes are smaller, lighter, and better than ever. If you want to try them out, you may be able to rent a pair for a day at many of the larger outdoor or sporting goods stores.
Whatever sport you choose, don't rely on a friend for instruction. You wouldn't let an amateur perform brain surgery on you; why let one teach you to ski or skate? That's what instructors are for — to help newcomers start out right. Instructors can give you advice about equipment, techniques, safety, and dealing with injuries if they do happen to you.
It's tempting for an eager athlete to advance too quickly through learning the ropes. Resist the temptation. If you want to progress, invest your time in learning the basics thoroughly. Everything else you do as a skier, boarder, or skater will be built on these first skills.
Play safely by figuring out what special equipment and safety gear you'll need. Planning an afternoon of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing? Pack water, snacks, fruit, and extra socks. If you're going out for a long time, keep your water bottle insulated from the cold so it doesn't freeze.
Regardless of how you get down a snow-covered slope, always watch for obstacles such as rocks, tree branches, and other people.
Don't head out onto the slopes or into remote country areas alone. Always go with a buddy and tell a friend what time you plan on returning. If you get in trouble and don't show up when you are supposed to, your friend has your back.
Take these precautions before you venture outside:
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: February 2011
|SnowLink SnowLink has news, product information, and tips about alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.|
|SkiNet.com SkiNet.com offers news, polls, gear, and snow reports for skiers.|
|Transworld Snowboarding This site contains snowboarding-related articles, news and equipment information.|
|Cross Country Ski World Sponsored by the American Cross Country Skiers, this site provides information about ski equipment, techniques, workouts, and more.|
|Safety Tips: Hockey As fun as it is, ice hockey carries a very real risk of injury. To find out how to stay as safe as possible, follow these tips.|
|Safety Tips: Skiing There's a lot to love about skiing, but it can also present some very real dangers, from frostbite and sunburn to blown knees and head injuries. Follow these tips to stay safe on the slopes.|
|Safety Tips: Snowboarding Snowboarding is a great way to have fun, but it can also present some very real dangers. Follow these safety tips to learn how to stay safe on the slopes.|
|Safety Tips: Sledding Sledding is a lot of fun, but can also cause injuries, some of them pretty serious. To keep yourself safe while sledding, follow these safety tips.|
|Keeping Your Cool in the Cold and Snow Read this article to find out how to protect yourself from cold-weather hazards - from frostbite to carbon monoxide poisoning.|
|Bad-Weather Driving Factors beyond your control may affect driving conditions: rain, wind, snow, ice, bright sun, fog, and hail, just to name a few. So what should you do if you find yourself driving in bad weather?|
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