Winter Workouts: Get Out There!
by David McCaskill

Winter is here and it's no time to hibernate!

Staying inside often means breathing in too much bad indoor air, gaining
weight and getting the
winter blues and bugs.  

Exercising inside the gym is great for strength training but exercising outside
during a New England winter really stiffens the backbone!

That's why one of my favorite winter scenes is a cross country ski trail with
spruce and fir trees cloaked in a fresh dusting of snow.
It's beautiful, and it
beckons the adventurous soul and winter-bound body.

Here in Maine we have a wonderful year-round outdoor playground (usually
free of charge) for fun and exercise. Winter activities, such as cross country
skiing, snow shoeing or simply walking briskly in the cold, crisp air, are fairly
inexpensive and easy on the joints.

Outdoor exercise also helps increase metabolism rates to fight weight gain and
keep brain endorphin levels up, which help keep us peppy and free of the
winter blues.

(Although my favorite reason for outdoor winter exercise is the smug feeling of
earning that post work-out lounge around the wood stove with a cup of hot chai

So where to go and what to do?
If there's no convenient woods road or nearby snowmobile trail (always check
with the landowner about access), check out some of Maine's State Parks.

There are extensive trail systems at
Bradbury Mountain in southern Maine,
Camden Hills
and Acadia National Park on the coast, Mount Blue State Park in
the western mountains and, up north, at
Aroostook State Park and Baxter State
Park (where winter trips require proof of experience and registration).

For more information on cross skiing centers in Maine, including the two world
class centers in Aroostook County, go to

Prepare for the adventure
When venturing out during your winter wanderings dress in layers and choose
clothes, especially your windproof outer layer that vents or breathes to manage
moisture (sweat).

Protect exposed, skin, from the wind and drink plenty of fluids to prevent
dehydration in the cold dry winter air. Also, don't forget that old adage, cotton
kills: dress in wool or synthetics (made of recycled plastics!) that don't retain

One more thing: It's really important to be able to recognize the symptoms of
hypothermia (uncontrolled shivering, drowsiness, slurred speech, numbness)
and understand the concepts of wind chill. When exercising in the cold, the risk
of hypothermia is usually greatest when you stop and don't have access to
warm dry shelter or dry clothes.

Along with winter clothing, footwear is much improved as well, such as the new
lightweight but warm boots designed for snowshoeing and winter running
shoes with spikes that grip those patches of ice and snow, but push back up into
the sole when you hit pavement again.

Stay healthy this winter and get outside and exercise to keep the blues and the
bugs at bay!

About the Author: David McCaskill is an Environmental Engineer with
the Maine DEP's Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management.
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