How to Make Your Winter Workout Seem Easier


I woke up Sunday morning and stuck my head out the window, hopeful that my friends who were running the ING New York City Marathon would have good weather. They were in luck: Beautiful sunny skies and cold-but-not-too-cold temperatures made for great racing conditions. While I know that some of us on the sidelines were quite chilly, I'll bet the runners were quite thankful for the almost-perfect autumn day.

Pretty soon, though, these crisp autumn mornings will turn into bitter cold winter days; I've already noticed that it's been harder and harder to get up and run in the mornings as the temperature drops and the wind picks up. And while some runners embrace the cold and will keep running outdoors through the new year, I tend to retreat to the gym during the winter—to the dreaded treadmill.

There are certainly pros and cons to both running on a treadmill or on the road, many of which have already been discussed in this blog. Now here's one more point for the treadmill: If you run at the gym (or in your home, if you've got the setup) while facing a mirror, you may not feel like you're working as hard. According to British research published this year in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, study participants who watched themselves in a mirror while running on a treadmill used oxygen more efficiently than those who had no reflection to watch. Watching the rhythmic movement of your own legs can apparently help your mind and body relax and get into the zone, making the effort seem easier, reports Women's Health magazine.

Do you spend your winter workouts indoors or outdoors? What are your tricks for making them easier? Regardless of where you exercise, it's important to keep it up over the next few months of cold weather and holiday celebrations. New research from the past two weeks piles on the evidence that regular physical activity is imperative to your health.

  • For people with type 2 diabetes, aerobic exercise combined with resistance training was shown to improve glucose control, physical performance, and body fat composition in a three-month study by University of Utah researchers.
  • Normal-weight women who frequently carry out vigorous activity (heavy house and yard work such as scrubbing floors, washing windows, digging, or chopping wood) or strenuous exercise (running, aerobics, fast dancing, and biking on hills) are 30% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who don't, found a National Cancer Institute study of more than 32,000 women.
  • People who are physically active may have less severe problems in the event of a stroke and may recover more successfully than those who do not exercise, found a Danish study of 265 people.
  • And in an animal study, researchers found that if obese individuals abruptly stop a regular exercise routine—something we all may be tempted to do when the weather gets cold—the disruption may quickly lead to symptoms of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition that affects at least 75% of obese people.