Happy New Year, Creekers!

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season filled with delicious food, belly laughs and relaxing times by the fireplace. January is often a time to reflect on new goals, get back on track or simply shed all that holiday cheer! Sometimes our winter season can be a deterrent for staying active. The snow is falling, streets can be icy and it’s likely cold a lot of the time. Dreaming of sandy beaches and warm sunsets occupy our minds!

Don’t let the cold weather turn you into a couch potato or the holiday stress get the best of you! Here are some ideas to stay fit, stay sane, and have fun with family and friends throughout the winter season.

According to the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, 61% of adults over the age of 18 are insufficiently active for optimal health benefits. This puts us at a higher risk for chronic conditions, injuries and diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.

Interval Training: How do you squeeze in those longer workouts during the shorter winter days? Dividing your time between family and work can be a challenge. Try incorporating interval training into your work out. This is a great way to shorten your workout while still maximizing your calorie burn. Interval training simply means mixing up the intensity during a workout. You will actually burn more calories in a shorter period of time.

If you only have time for a 30 minute work out – you can incorporate hills or changes in speed to bump up the intensity of your workout and challenge your body in a different way. For example, you could alternate three minutes of moderate intensity activity with one minute of higher intensity. This can be done walking, running, cycling or on cardio machines at the gym. Interval training is a great way to challenge your body, push through training plateaus and take your fitness to the next level.

Tobogganing: Grab the kids, bundle up and find a hill to swoosh down. Climbing back up those hills, especially when the kids insist you pull them too, is good exercise! The squeals of glee and the powder soaked faces are the reward for all that hard work. Ensure you have good gripping shoes or Yak Trax, and if you are pulling kids back up the hill, alternate which side you pull with so that you avoid straining your lower back or shoulder muscles. It’s also a good idea to wear helmets – both for warmth and safety.

Shovelling: Oh, this dreaded winter chore! Snow blowers aside, there is always some amount of shovelling that needs to happen over the next few months. This is also a very common mechanism of injury for lower back strains, disc protrusions, and shoulder injuries. Ensure you warm up a little before digging in – try some shoulder circles, mini lunges, and side to side torso stretches. The best strategy to prevent an injury however, is good technique. It is important to engage your core, this means slightly draw in your lower abdomen towards your spine. Squat with your back straight, hips flexed, knees bent, and lift with your legs. Pushing the snow rather than heaving it up and away can save your back even more. If you have to pick up and throw – make sure you keep the load close to your body, fill the shovel only half full and toss in front of you. Twisting to throw snow over your shoulder puts undue stress on our backs and lumbar discs. Shovelling can be good exercise, if like all activities, you are warmed up and prepared for it!

Walking: Braving those cold winter days is so much more fun with someone else in tow. Try going for a walk with a friend or taking the dog out. Those four-leggers never seem to get sick of the snow and cold! Walking briskly for 30 minutes 4-7 days a week can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and osteoporosis.

Snowshoeing: Snowshoeing works your heart, lungs, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors. Using poles also works your biceps, triceps, chest and back muscles. Especially if you’re a runner in the summer and want to keep up your cardio, snowshoeing is a great activity for cross training through the winter. Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association has well marked, amazing trails to enhance your outdoor bliss!

Cross Country Skiing: There are fantastic ski trails in West Bragg as well, beautifully groomed & maintained. Cross country skiing is the optimal workout, by incorporating the arms with the legs in a weight bearing activity, this increases the workload on the cardiovascular system. 

Because it is non impact, it is easy on the joints, especially if you are nursing a lower limb injury. It also trains a great range of heart rate, the upper end of zones with climbing hills and allows recovery on the descents. It strengthens the quads, gluts, hip flexors, triceps and back muscles.

Skating: Lace up! Find a frozen surface – a rink, a flooded backyard or a lake (Parks Canada website provides info about where to skate outdoors and how to be safe). When conditions permit, there is a track cleared for skating on the Bow River just near downtown Banff. Other great day trips include Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake, and Johnson Lake in Banff National Park.

Make a Snowman or a Snowcave: Packing, rolling and lifting that heavy snow will work your back, arm and leg muscles. Remember as kids we could do this for hours? Make sure you’re warmed up and lightly stretched out before beginning. Bend your knees and lift with your legs to prevent any lower back or neck strains.

Be prepared with proper clothing, footwear, and equipment. Staying hydrated is equally important during the winter while exercising outdoors. Warm up and cool down – you might spend a few extra minutes warming up for winter exercise and afterwards, give your body time to adjust to the indoors before peeling off those layers.

Brave the outdoors and have fun this winter season. Take some time for yourself or with family and friends to enjoy the invigorating winter air and the powdery snowflakes falling around you!

Furthermore, Bragg Creek Physiotherapy is excited to announce a relaunch of their fitness services including personal training, group fitness classes and nutritional counselling. We look forward to guiding you on your pathway to physical freedom in 2019 and beyond. More details to follow in the February edition of the High Country News.

Best wishes for a happy & healthy 2019! 

Jennifer Gordon (BScPT, AFCI, GIMS, BKin)