Wrestling with the winter weather

By Charles Giordano

(James/ Flickr)
(James/ Flickr)

Winter can pose challenges to many people with varying lifestyles. For some, this comes in the form of depression, more specifically seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that usually begins in late fall and continues through the winter months. Others may be part of a large group who struggle to stay in shape once temperatures outside begin to drop. As I am sure some of you can relate to, I do not always enjoy going to the gym. By nature, I would rather get my exercise outdoors, be it through organized sports, hiking, swimming or running. For many of us, the outdoors beckons. Whether you are seasonally depressed, having trouble finding motivation or are finding it difficult to adapt to seasonal conditions, there are a variety of ways that you can stay happy and healthy this winter. Either way, fitness is not impossible in these harsh conditions, nor is exercising outside.

As a runner, winter can be a bit of a challenge. Colder temperatures mean more gear, more preparation, more effort and often times, a lot more motivation. If you usually run when it’s warm out, the transition can be hard and unwelcome. What I find effective is picking days ahead of time that appear to have suitable conditions for outdoor exercise. Using a weather app or report, pick a few days you think you will feel comfortable enough to get outside and plan on making an effort to do so. Something else to consider is planning outdoor exercise for later in the day, preferably anywhere from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.. This may take some getting used to for those of you who love waking up early to get workouts in, but I assure you it is well worth it when considering just how much warmer afternoon temperatures feel, even if it’s just five or six degrees warmer. If you have tried these things to little or no avail, remember that there is always strength in numbers. UMass Club Running (UMCR) meets every weekday all semester at 4 p.m., in the Student Union. Its officers offer great leadership and a space for runners to meet and train together.

Having said all of that, many of you may not be interested in jogging when temperatures are in the 20’s outside, or colder. If this describes you, I highly recommend the group fitness classes offered by the Rec Center. Everything offered is free and there are classes starting at 7 a.m., five days a week. Group fitness is a great way to stay motivated in the winter. It might be difficult to garner the enthusiasm to go all the way to the gym and work out on a machine for an hour, but when you have a group of people and a positive, upbeat instructor waiting for you, exercise seems a bit more fun. Just make sure you do not forget to sign up online for the classes that require pre-registration. Make sure to plan ahead for this, since the classes fill up quickly.

The Rec Center offers many classes, but I suggest you try yoga in particular, especially if these winter months are getting you down. I myself never did yoga before this semester. Needless to say, I was very inexperienced and a bit apprehensive about attending a class at the Rec Center. After my first Vinyasa Flow workout, I was hooked and have already attended eight one-hour sessions total. Whatever your interests, if you are willing to step a bit outside your comfort zone and try a few different classes, or even just one, there is bound to be something you will enjoy.

It is easy to get caught up in the negatives when approaching one’s physical fitness. I urge anyone trying to get in shape to not feel turned off by others who may be succeeding, but to instead be mindful of themselves and their own goals. If you normally take a bus somewhere, try throwing an extra layer on and walking. If you spend a ton of time in front of the TV, try to take 15 minutes of that time and do some light exercise in your dorm or living space. I cannot tell you how much progress I have seen personally just from purchasing a 20-pound-kettlebell and a small yoga mat for floor exercises. Whatever the reason, if you decide to get in shape this winter, you are more than capable. In fact, you are more than halfway there.

Charlie Giordano can be reached at [email protected]