How to lose (instead of gain) weight this winter

Don't wait for spring to get active outdoors

lose weight this winter, get active outdoors

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We Canadians are a hardy breed, yet we still have a tendency to hibernate during the winter, and by hibernate I mean cuddle up by the fire with a thick blanket and a cup of hot cocoa while waiting for spring. Unlike other animals, however, we’ve got an ample supply of food so we can gain weight during the winter rather than lose it.

You have to keep moving

And if you want to survive the coming cold with a smile on your face and less “you” weighing down the scale, then you need to keep moving. To move, you need room, and room is what the Canadian outdoors has to spare.

I know it’s a hard sell, but with a bit of mental gymnastics and careful planning you can change your attitude about the changing seasons so that you’ll look forward to spending as much time outside during the cold months as you do during Canada’s too short summer season. Consider what my dad once told me: “There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing,” but before you get your wardrobe together, you need to wrap your mind around this concept.

Here are a few brain-training tips:

1. Avoid the “all or none” mentality. Humans aren’t fond of change, so baby steps are always key. If you like running outside in the summer, but hate the thought of running in the cold, then plan for pushing your limits just a bit. If you’ve never run in temps below 5C, then this year vow that you will go as low as 0C, and next year you can try -5C or even -10C.

2. Realize the convenience of the outdoors. Just going outside your front door takes less time than sweeping snow off your car and driving through winter conditions to get to the gym or a fitness class.

3. Understand that you’ll likely enjoy exercising outside more than inside, and that you will exert yourself harder and for a longer period of time.

4. Believe that you’ve got what it takes to become an all-weather workout warrior. The power of positive thinking to achieve goals isn’t just a motivational guru mantra, but a scientifically proven concept.

5. Ignore what Nike says. Instead, learn, plan, prepare, THEN do. This builds what is called self-efficacy so you’re ready to handle the change of seasons with confidence.

Now that your head is in the right place, here’s what you should do:

Spend some money. Make sure you’ve got the right gear for being active in the cold, no matter what activity you choose. This isn’t about making a winter fashion statement, but getting practical clothing that allows for movement, keeps you warm, and functions well in harsh conditions.

• Got kids? Drag the entire family outside at the spur of the moment, on a regular basis, for walks, throwing leaves at each other, snowball fights, sledding, or snowman building. Make it fun and your entire family will all be better off.

• Don’t just shovel your snow, but your neighbour’s too, and even your neighbour’s neighbour’s. Heck, shovel the whole block.

• Try something new. Actually, try many new things. Have you ever been downhill or cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, outdoor skating, or even cycled in the snow? Gather family or friends, get some lessons, grab some gear, and get going!

On a final note, recall what I wrote about becoming an all-weather workout warrior. It’s a gradual shift in mindset that can have a positive impact on your health and mental well-being. Instead of dreading the next six months you can welcome it with a butt-kicking attitude that will make life more fun all around. And life is supposed to be fun, right? You may end up having so much fun this winter that you’ll be almost sad to see spring arrive.

Yeah, probably not, but have fun this winter anyway. Adventure is out there and it’s got your name on it.

James S. Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary, AB. Visit or email him at

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