11+ Winter Workouts to Stay Fit in Freezing Temps

Here are some basic winter activities, with some badass variations, that can turn a winter afternoon into a killer workout. 

Brock Armstrong
8-minute read
Episode #369

7. Shoveling the Walk

And speaking of shovelling, this is a great wintertime workout that also helps out the neighbourhood. Most cities have bylaws that insist snow gets cleared within 48 hours of a snowfall, so why wait? Clear the walks and burn some calories.

Make sure you keep the workload even by changing hands on the shovel every few minutes. If you aren't already an ambidextrous shoveler, you will be soon.

Shovelling your own walk can be made harder by waiting longer before you engage in the “throw” part of the shovel activity. Also you can make sure you keep the workload even by changing hands on the shovel every few minutes. If you aren't already an ambidextrous shoveler, you will be soon.

The real benefits kick in when you do more than just your own sidewalk. Why not make everyone’s day by getting out there early and clearing as many sidewalks and driveways as you can before you make yourself late for work? And if you aren’t putting yourself in danger of frostbite or hypothermia, try incorporating some aspects of a “shiver walk” by going out in shorts and a t-shirt along with a good pair of winter gloves, boots, and a hat so you don’t freeze your extremities.

Muscles used: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluteals, Biceps, Triceps, and pretty much all of the trunk/core, especially the external obliques and multifidus.

8. Skiing or Snowboarding

Is there any better way to enjoy the winter season than careening, at breakneck speeds, down a mountain? Ok, for you it might be all about the après-ski beverages in the chalet but for many of us, swishing down the slopes is the closest we get to flying!

Need to beef it up? Well, this could get dangerous fast, so let’s not get carried away adding in weighted vests or blindfolds. Challenging yourself with a harder-than-usual run is a great way to start the day but as your legs get tired, and the sun starts to set, there is nothing wrong with taking it easy and dialing it back from black diamond to blue square or green circle. Getting a good workout tomorrow is easier if you aren’t in a cast from hip to ankle. Right?

Muscles used: Plantar Flexors and Dorsiflexors, Transverse Abdominal, Multifidus, External Obliques, Rectus Abdominus, Anterior Compartment, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, and Gluteals.

9. Ice Hockey

Hitting the rink, indoor or out, with your friends (or some local rink rats) is a great way to get a workout and have some fun at the same time. Who knows, your competitive side may just come out and lead to some unintended victories as well.

If simply skating hard and deking out your friends isn’t enough, you can challenge yourself by being both offense and defense (if it is a true game of shinny and no one is really playing a position). You can also get more of a workout by extending your shifts—just don’t be “that hog” who never lets their teammates have a turn. The best way to make a game of ice hockey more of a challenge and a better workout is to play with (or against) people who are clearly better than you. Nothing makes you step up your game like getting scored on repeatedly.

Muscles used: Adductors Brevis, Longus, Magnus and Pectineus, Obliques, Rectus Abdominis, Erector Spinae, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Gluteals, and Hip Flexors.

10. Ice Skating

You don’t have to have a stick in your hands and a puck on the ice to enjoy putting on the old skates and letting loose your inner Brian Boitano.

We’ve talked a lot so far about adding weight to our body or to something we are pulling, so this time let’s talk intensity. The best way to increase your VO2 Max is by doing eight to twelve, 600m to 800m all-out speed or power skating efforts. For VO2 max workouts, the work-to-recovery ratio should be in the range of 1:1 to 2:1. If your recoveries are too short then your subsequent efforts will end up being slower than optimal or you will need to cut the workout short. So grab your measuring tape (or just eyeball it) and a stopwatch and see if you can give Boitano a run for his money.

Muscles used: Soleus and Gastocnemius, Anterior Shin (tibialis anterior), Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluteals, Abdominals, and Extensors.

11. Snowball Fight

How could I have a list of winter activities and not include having a snowball fight?

How could I have a list of winter activities and not include having a snowball fight? Seriously? Those of us who grew up in a snowy locale have been having these our entire lives. Is there anything more natural than grabbing a handful of snow and chucking it at your sibling or best friend? I don’t think so.

To take a regular snowball fight to the next level, move it out into a wide open field where you have nothing to hide behind but your own cat-like reflexes. Depending on how accurate your opponent is, this can keep you dancing and dodging until you collapse.

There is also some good science around the benefits of using your non-dominant hand for activities like this. The studies show that when you use your dominant hand, only one hemisphere of the brain is active but when you use your non-dominant hand, both hemispheres are activated. They speculate that doing this repeatedly could result in you actually thinking differently and becoming more creative.

Muscles used: Visual Cortex, Nervous System, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Hip Adductors, Hip Abductors, Gluteals, Int./Ext., Obliques, Rectus Abdominis, Erector Spinae, Deltoids, Pectoralis Major, Latissimus Dorsi, Triceps, and Biceps.

There you have it! Whether you feel like you are battling Seasonal Affective Disorder or you are just getting a case of the winter blahs, I bet it's at least partially a result of not getting outside and enjoying yourself. Don't let the length of winter force you inside with the windows closed!

There are so many benefits to being active outdoors. It's a great way to boost your metabolism and burn some calories, plus the fresh air makes us feel alive again. Just make sure you dress appropriately for your climate. I'm confident you can find a way to both enjoy winter and get a good workout at the same time. 

For more outdoor info, winter tips, and to join the snowy conversation, head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy or twitter.com/getfitguy. Also don't forget to subscribe to the Get-Fit Guy podcast on Apple Podcasts, StitcherSpotify, Google Play or via RSS.


About the Author

Brock Armstrong

Brock Armstrong is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute. Do you have a fitness question? Leave a message on the Get-Fit Guy listener line. Your question could be featured on the show.