|You Don't Belong Inside|
Real Canadians run and cycle outside in the winter.
Seriously, with some planning, preparation, and mental fortitude you can make the shift from fair-weather outdoor exerciser to all-weather workout warrior. With access to things such as treadmills and cycles with TVs, indoor tracks and spinning classes, you may wonder about the benefits of getting outdoors when it's cold enough to freeze Russian vodka. Read on and see.
Many articles have been written about the biomechanical and metabolic differences between treadmills and outdoor running, and the general consensus is that the contrasts are small. The primary mechanical advantages of running outdoors are the addition of wind resistance and the ability to build muscles specific to going downhill, around turns, and on harder or uneven surfaces. Overall, however, a 2008 study by Patrick Riley et al. in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise determined that the kinetics of treadmill versus outdoor running are very similar.
The psychology, however, is very different. An October 2004 study by Rick LaCaille in Psychology of Sport & Exercise found some telling evidence that convinces me I'm not actually crazy when I lace up my running shoes at minus-thirty. The research revealed that people who run outside versus those on treadmills run faster, yet have lower perceived exertion, and they also report the "highest levels of positive engagement, revitalization, tranquility, and course satisfaction..." In other words, the people outside like it more and work harder. I should note the tests were conducted during warm weather, but I would argue that similar results could be expected once a person has acclimated to all-weather running.
When comparing a stationary bike to a road bicycle, the primary physiological difference is the need to balance the latter and go around corners, both of which activate your core-stability muscles. Again, the more important aspect is the psychological one. Many people find stationary bikes boring, even if there is a TV to watch. As with outdoor running, the scenery on an outdoor bike changes constantly, which gives an additional motivational boost compared to simply watching the numbers on an electronic display change. Some people find great motivation in attending spinning classes, but from a time-management perspective these can be limiting compared to simply heading out the door and jumping on your bike. I've done some spinning classes, and while they are motivating, the scheduling isn't always convenient; not to mention, the class doesn't come to me, I have to go to it. Additionally, most classes are too short for a well-trained person. After a spinning class, I feel like I've still got gas in the tank.
Gear and Safety
Making the switch to all-weather running and cycling takes some planning and preparation, and you likely will need to open your wallet to ensure that you stay both safe and warm. I firmly believe that you should get specialized equipment at a specialized store. The staff is knowledgeable in the types of equipment needed for harsher conditions, and it usually makes for a one-stop shop.
Other Outdoor Actvities
There are plenty of outdoor sports such as baseball and golf that are essentially impossible to play in the snow, so consider replacing these activities with winter-specific ones such as skiing, snowboarding, skating, and snowshoeing. Also, if you like hiking in the summer, this doesn't mean you can't still do it in the winter with the proper preparation. For all outdoor activities it is important to keep safety in mind and make sure that if you fall and break something that help is available before you freeze.
Crazy Versus Tough
Exercise adherence is frequently an issue of perceived enjoyment, and riding and running outside is seen by most as more fun than being stuck inside. It's a known fact that those who enjoy exercise are more likely to stick with it and work harder.
About the Author
James S. Fell, M.A., M.B.A., is the author of Body for Wife: The Family Guy's Guide to Getting in Shape. He gives free, politically incorrect fitness advice at www.bodyforwife.com.