How to Stay In Shape Over the Winter Holidays
Unless you’re playing a winter sport linked with the academic calendar—or just getting out to the slopes every weekend—chances are good that the months of December and January are “off season” for your physical activities.
On the one hand, the cold weather and occasional winter storms and snow cover provide a powerful disincentive to going out and getting active.
On the other hand, the temptation of good food and festive parties during the holiday season can provide a powerful incentive to cheat on your diet and skimp on your training!
And even those who do continue to play hard during the winter might be at risk of other injuries, too. Playing a lot of indoor sports on hard surfaces can seriously stress your feet, especially if you aren’t taking good care of them otherwise.
For The “Off Season” Athlete
It’s important to keep active and exercising all year long, even if your chosen sport is out of season—and even if the weather is blisteringly cold.
Every spring, we treat a lot of “weekend warrior” athletes who sat out the winter and then tried to go too hard when the weather got nice—only to wind up with a ruptured tendon or bad sprain.
So for starters, as long as the conditions aren’t dangerous—be brave! Don’t let a nippy breeze keep you from getting a good run in. Just take a few extra smart precautions:
- Getting a good warmup in is even more important when the weather is cold.
- Dress for weather about 20 degrees warmer than it actually is.
- Avoid the wind as best you can. If you can’t avoid it, better to run into the wind on the way out and with the wind on the way back.
- If running through snow or ice, remember to wear appropriate foot gear with extra traction, and shorten up your stride so you stay better balanced.
Even when the weather gets bad, consider getting some exercise in during your outdoor chores. Let’s say several inches of snow got dumped on your driveway overnight. You might consider shoveling instead of snow blowing—at least for part of the job, anyway—to get a little more exercise in.
If you’re not into running or the weather just isn’t going to permit a lot of outdoor activity (or even if it does), you may still want to keep up with fitness in other ways. Stretching and weight training remain important if you want to maintain fitness and strength. Consider also some indoor (and low-impact) cardio alternatives, like riding the stationary bicycle or going for a swim at the fitness center pool.
And of course, before we move on, let’s look at the holidays specifically—and all the temptations that come with them.
Sure, it’s great to relax and enjoy some of the festivities—and maybe even just a little bit of cheating on your diet or workout routine might not get you on the naughty list. Just don’t go overboard here:
- Enjoy the good stuff—but in healthy proportions. Remember to drink lots of water (which can help control hunger, too).
- If you do let loose and overindulge, do it for one night. And not, you know, an entire weekend … or week … or month …
- Avoid sitting for long periods of time. Get up and get active, even if it’s just a quick walk around the neighborhood, doing the dishes, etc.
- Figure out what part of the day works best for your workout over the holidays. Mornings tend to be best for people who get distracted with other activities later in the day, but if you want to do some running or exercising outside it might be better to wait for warmer, brighter conditions at mid-day. Just be consistent and stick to the plan!
- Enjoy some seasonal activities! We already mentioned a boring one (shoveling snow), but you might be a little more motivated to go sledding, skating, skiing, snowshoeing—you get the idea.
For the Winter Athlete
Of course, here on the foothills of the Front Range, we are living in more or less the winter sports capital of the United States. So while some athletes are shutting down for the winter, many others are just gearing up for months of skiing, snowboarding, and other cold weather sports.
If that’s you, here are a few tips for keeping your feet in shape (and by “in shape,” we mean “not sprained, broken, or otherwise injured.”
- It’s important to exercise and keep yourself conditioned throughout the week—not just a burst of energy on the slopes every other weekend, with two weeks of sedentary activity in between. That means getting in some regular cardio, stretching, and weight training throughout the season.
- We said it before, but we’ll say it again—warming up before your workout is especially important in winter conditions.
- Gear up with appropriate equipment, in good working order, that fits your feet. Always check that skis, snowboards, boots, etc. are undamaged and the right size before you begin.
- Layer yourself appropriately with clothing that wicks moisture from your body, blocks water and wind from the outside, and can be removed or put back on depending on the conditions.
- In cold weather, psychologically speaking, many people are less likely to drink enough water, and more likely to keep pushing themselves even when they are exhausted or in pain. Don’t do this! Listen to your body and avoid over-exerting yourself—many of the worst injuries occur at the end of the day, when people are trying to squeeze in one more run.
For the Indoor Athlete
Of course, you can be extremely active in the winter even if you’re allergic to temperatures below 60 degrees. Gym sports like basketball, volleyball, and even indoor soccer thrive during the winter months. Maybe you’re on a school team, or just play a little pick-up ball in the mornings.
Again, we’ll repeat some of the same advice we’ve given earlier. It pays to stay active throughout the week, getting in regular stretching, cardio work, etc. so you can better maintain your fitness level and avoid “too much, too soon” style injuries.
One other thing to remember is that indoor sports tend to be hard on the feet. You’ll be playing on a rigid indoor surface, and probably doing a lot of running and jumping. Without adequate rest and recovery time, you could find yourself developing aggravating chronic injuries like heel pain or stress fractures.
In order to reduce your risk, make sure you’re wearing high quality athletic shoes that are designed specifically for the sport you play. Don’t try to get away with wearing running shoes for basketball (to use one common example) or sticking with last season’s blown-out sneakers—they aren’t going to protect your feet and ankles the way you need them to.
Also, avoid engaging in high-impact workouts every day—your feet need a chance to recover and heal. Substitute with low-impact activities. Again, the stationary bike, swimming pool, or weight room are your friends here.
For Anyone Who Suffers a Sports-Related Foot or Ankle Injury This Holiday Season
Stop in and let us take a look at it.
The Colorado Center for Podiatric Sports Medicine offers advanced treatment options for athletes of all ages and skill levels—from middle school teams to weekend warriors to professional soccer players. (Dr. Yakel is the team podiatrist for the Colorado Rapids.)
If you want to get back to full speed quickly and safely, we can help. Check out our website for more information, or give us a call at (720) 600-3380 to schedule an appointment.