No excuses. These are our 5 favorite high-intensity winter workouts – and you can bring the kids with! Don’t underestimate the importance of eating well and drinking plenty of fluids before, and during, winter outdoor activities. Winter activities are generally more physically demanding than summer activities. See our guide How To Keep Kids Warm on Cold Adventures for suggestions on how to dress kids for cold temperatures, and some Tips & Tricks on how to stay warm.
Snow Shoeing with Sled
Snowshoeing is a great winter workout for both kids and adults. It’s easy to learn – if you can walk, you can snowshoe – and it poses virtually no risk of injury. Snowshoeing can burn more than 600 calories per hour – that’s 45% more calories than walking or running at the same speed! Add sled + child for extra credit. New snowshoes cost $100-$300, but you can rent a pair for $15 from local outfitters or State Parks. An outfitter will help you determine the type and size of snowshoes that is right for you.
A few basic rules: don’t go snowshoeing alone – bring a friend, pack plenty of extra water to avoid dehydration, bring extra food and clothes, and make sure to tell someone about your plans. Dress in layers and make sure your boots are waterproof. Wear gaiters if you go deep off-roading to prevent snow from getting into you pant legs and boots.
Cross Country Skiing with Sled
This classic winter workout comes in two styles: Classic and Skate. Classic style, done in deeply groomed tracks that run parallel to each other, is the traditional form, involving kicking and gliding in a forward-leaning motion. Skate style requires the skier to push off each ski in a V pattern, similar to rollerblading or ice-skating. Skate skiing is done on wide packed tracks, usually right next to Classic style tracks. Both types of Cross Country skiing can burn from 400 to 800 calories an hour.
While both classic and skate skiing can, technically, be done on any type of snow, it is difficult to ski where the snow hasn’t been groomed. Many State Parks offer groomed trails and ski rentals. If you have a baby or small child with you, consider pulling them in a sled behind you. Some outfitters and state parks rent “pulk sleds” for this purpose. Ski rentals cost $15-20 per person.
Winter Hiking with Baby Carrier and Backpack
Forget everything you know about packing “ultralight.” Stuff your backpack with thermos, extra water, picnic food, blankets, camp chairs –anything and everything you ever wanted to bring on a day-hike, but didn’t, because it was too heavy. Strap the pack to your back and a baby in carrier to your front. All in all, you are probably carrying an extra 40-60lbs. Crank out 5 quick miles to earn your hot chocolate. Deep snow and elevation gain will make your workout more intense. See our Hiking with Kids 101 for Tips & Tricks on hiking with kids.
This classic winter workout can burn you on average 300-500 calories per hour. Good form is key to avoiding injury or lower back soreness. Before you dig in, do a quick warm-up and stretch out. Limit lifts. Instead, push the snow off to the side into piles. If you have to lift, bend your knees and lift with your legs (not your back!), and avoid twisting or throwing snow over your shoulder. Arm your kids with smaller shovels and make a plan for how to most efficiently get the job done together. Emphasize teamwork. Take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water. After clearing your own driveway, shovel your neighbor’s driveway and the sidewalk.
Make a Snowmen
Don’t build a snowman – build several snowmen! The bigger the better. You need the slightly wet snow, not too slushy, and not powder. Temperature should be just above or just below freezing. You will also need at least a few inches of snow on the ground. Start by making a tightly hand-packed bowling ball size core. Continue rolling the core into a large snowball, alternating directions. Involve the kids by having them help pushing. Keep rolling the snowball until you can’t move it anymore.
Next, repeat process to make snowman upper body. Keep rolling until the snowball is so big that you can just barely complete a deadlift. Stack the snowball on top of the one you made previously.
Next, make the snowman’s head. Make this snowball big enough that you can just barely lift it high enough to stack it on top of the snowman’s upper body. At this point, if you’re not exhausted, let the kids dress the first snowman while you continue making snowman number two!
What is your favorite winter workout? Tell us about it!