Ditch the Excuses! Seven Tips to Help You Get Out the Door for Winter Walks

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to exercise more consistently, eat better, drink more water or whatever?

I did not. I don’t do resolutions anymore, but I do make commitments to try to do those things, pretty much on a daily basis. Btw, I did that before cancer too.

You might want to read, New Year Resolutions, a good piece about taking responsibility for getting moving, cancer or no cancer.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty weary of headlines and articles touting diet and exercise as ways to prevent cancer. Nothing prevents cancer. Not yet anyway. Cancer’s too sneaky. A healthy lifestyle reduces risk. Big difference.

Panel Finds Exercise May Lower Cancer Risk and Improve Outcomes, now that’s an article that got the headline and the content right. Check it out, if you want to.

In 2020, I’m pretty sure most adults fully realize the benefits of exercise, regardless of the state of our health. We don’t need shaming. We don’t need lectures. We don’t need finger pointing.

But sometimes we can use some help!

Not just encouragement, but guidance with specific resources for how to incorporate healthier eating habits and more movement (better term than exercise) should be part of any cancer patient’s followup. Unfortunately, for most of us, this is not the case. There’s talk about making this part of followup, almost like a prescription, but so far it’s just talk.

Now let’s get to the point of this particular post – winter walks.

If you’re like me, taking a daily walk is your first choice for getting in some daily exercise.

But what the heck do you do if, also like me, you live where winter is not necessarily your friend when it comes to getting outside for that daily walk?

I’m not gonna lie. Winter months make it extra challenging for me to head out the door with the pup (who’s really a senior, but I still like to call her a pup.) I live in Wisconsin after all. Winter is long. Winter is harsh. Winter is well, wintry.

7 Tips for Winter Walks #exercise #womenshealth #winter #walkingtips #getoutside

Nonetheless, I still prefer to get outdoors whenever I can to take that walk during winter months too. There’s just something about getting outside. The fresh air. The solitude. The no devices (most of the time anyway). The quiet. The thinking time. The planning time. The me time.

But this time of year, my daily walk can also be “freezing my arse time”!

So, when is it too cold to take that walk?

Not that often. And that’s according to experts, not me. It’s generally considered safe to walk outdoors until the temps get down to sub-zero level, and even then, it’s doable with extra precautions taken. Of course, dressing appropriately matters. A lot! Especially when it’s windy too.

Read about dressing appropriately for cold temps here.

You might want to read, Winter fitness: Safety tips for exercising outdoors via Mayo Clinic, for further info.

So, now let’s get to those winter walking tips.

1. As mentioned, you gotta dress appropriately.

Layer up. Get the gear. And don’t skimp. It’s the perfect excuse to splurge on yourself. Get the warm hooded coat, pricier gloves, cozy stocking cap and a warm scarf.

When it’s cold, proper head cover and protecting your hands, feet and face is essential.

2. Take shorter, later in the day walks and pick up the pace when you can.

Sometimes we get hung up on distance. Sometimes less is more. Start with a goal of 10 minutes. Once you get out there, you’ll likely feel like doing more. Okay, you might.

Also, adjusting the time of day you walk might help. When it’s milder, I prefer walking earlier in the day. During winter, I choose whatever time my trusty phone weather app tells me will be the warmest.

Generally, people walk faster when it’s cold, so if you’re able and it’s not too icy, pick up your pace. You’ll burn more calories that way. Woohoo!

Another option is to break things up and take a couple shorter walks throughout your day. (I know, I know. You’re saying, you’re kidding, right? Bundle up more than once?) Gotta admit, I rarely do this. Cuz once kinda is enough. But still, if it helps…

3. Stay close to home.

Don’t venture out too far. This way, you can get back indoors quickly if you need to. Or just want to. So, changing your route might be in order for winter months.

4. Be mindful of wind chills too. And icy conditions.

I used to think reporting wind chill temps was sorta silly. Not any more. They do matter. I never used to worry much about walking on icy sidewalks and streets either. Now I do. (Thank you endocrine therapy. Not!)

My brother gave me some rubber cleat-like contraptions a few years back to strap on over my boots. I kid you not. (Where did I put those?)

5. Have a back up plan. You’re gonna need it.

Okay, sometimes it IS just too darn cold. Sometimes you need a backup. Dear Hubby and I bought a treadmill years ago when the kids were youngsters, and it’s still working! It was a good investment, and we’ve only changed the belt once. I only use it in winter months, but for those days I choose to stay in, it’s a great alternative. Yeah, treadmills are kinda boring, but mine gets me moving. So, considering a piece of equipment for your home might make a lot of sense.

Other alternatives might be an exercise DVD, following an online program, grabbing a routine from Pinterest (I do this. Check out my exercise board.), joining a club of some sort or just making up your own routine. Though do be careful with the latter, if you don’t know what you’re doing. The last thing you want to do is hurt yourself.

You might want to read, The YMCA Livestrong Program for Cancer Survivors.

6. Get a dog to walk with year round.

Of course NEVER get a dog for just this one reason. However, having a walking buddy can really help motivate, regardless of weather conditions. Of course, some dogs can’t take the cold, but many, probably even most, can tolerate it for short periods.

Dear Daughter has tips for walking/running with dogs at That Mutt. Below are a couple links.

Winter Running with Dogs

How Cold Is too Cold for a Dog Walk?

Bottom line, you know your pet best. When in doubt, ask your vet. She likely has, or has had a dog, and lives where you do, after all. And remember, your pet might benefit by wearing a coat and perhaps boots as well. There’s lots of dog gear on the market these days too.

Seven Tips to Help You Stick with Your #Winter Walks #exercise #womenshealth #dogs #springerspaniels #getoutside #walkingtips #dogtips

7. Reward yourself.

This could be enjoying a cup of hot chocolate or coffee once you’re back inside or indulging in a treat of some sort that you like. It could also be curling up with a book or magazine for the same number of minutes that you walked, marking the day on your calendar with a big “X” or an “I did it” or giving yourself a sticker – whatever it takes!

Also, give yourself a pat on the back for getting out there. Winter walking makes you sort of a bad ass! (Stole that one from That Mutt!)

So, those are a few ideas I came up with to help you keep up with your daily walking routine in winter.

Still not feeling motivated?

I get it. Sometimes it’s not that easy to “just do it”.

Believe me, I’ve used every excuse to not get out the door. It’s too hot, too cold, too rainy, too slushy, too humid, too windy, too icy, too buggy. And those are just the weather excuses! (I told you I’ve used them all.)

Maybe you hate to exercise. It’s okay. If that’s you, take a peek at this post for a little motivation: Do You Hate to Exercise? 14 Strategies to Help Motivate.

I always like to wrap up this sort of post with a couple reminders.

First of all, do your best. Cut yourself some slack, maybe a lot of slack on some days.

Secondly, remember that even if you never exercise, never reach your “ideal” weight or whatever metric you wanna use, you are worthy.

Your value is not based on the state of your health, your weight, whether or not you eat right or exercise a little, a lot or not at all. And all those people who “do everything right”, they are not better than you because they do.

You are a person of value just for being you. Exactly as you are.

Yes, just like Mr. Rogers always said!

Do you have a winter walking tip?

Don’t live where it’s cold? I’m betting there are still days you need some motivation due to weather or something else. So, share your tip(s) too!

What’s your go-to form of movement, regardless of season or weather?

To get more articles like this one delivered weekly to your inbox, Click Here! #KeepingItReal #SupportYouCanUse

Seven Tips for #Winter #Walks #getoutside #cancer #womenshealth exercise #dogs #springerspaniels #walkingtips dogtips #coldweather

32 thoughts to “Ditch the Excuses! Seven Tips to Help You Get Out the Door for Winter Walks”

  1. I live in a coastal city now, so there isn’t often enough snow to do this. But when I lived somewhere that got more snow, something I found unexpectedly fun and rewarding was snowshoeing. A local golf course (closed for the season, obviously) was my go-to stomping ground, and it was a great activity to get fresh air and exercise. There were always beautiful photo ops, and I had the feeling of being secluded in nature – even though civilization was really just a hole or two away. Much more appealing than an icy sidewalk, and fun for the dogs, too!

    For snowy dog walks, I recommend “Musher’s Secret.” It’s a jar of wax that they use on sled dogs to protect their pads from the elements. Keep a paper towel in your pocket to wipe it off before they come back inside. 🙂

    1. Ashley, I love your snowshoeing idea. Dear Hubby and I have talked about trying that, but so far, have not. And the “Musher’s Secret”, what a great tip. Thank you!

  2. Great advice and tips — as always. I too take winter walks, principally because of the dog. But I also go to the gym, which I don’t love. Yet I always try to remind myself on those days when I really don’t want to go that I always feel better afterwards. (Disclaimer: it doesn’t always serve as sufficient motivation but usually it helps.)

    1. Jeffrey, Another reason to love our dogs, right? We belong to a gym too, but I don’t like going there for various reasons. This time of year, though, sometimes it’s the best option. Like you, I have to remind myself how much better I feel after I fit in some movement. If I didn’t do that, I’d probably never bother! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Instructions unclear. Are those 6 different options, or should I get 5 dogs and just “dog” as the last step 😉

  3. A few years ago my husband created “ice walking shoes” for each of us using old running shoes (boots with a thick sole could also work) and screws. They work like a charm and you don’t have to worry about your yaktraks breaking half way through a walk. These really make walking on packed snow/ice a pleasure. I’ve copied the instructions below (allow about 5 minutes per pair):

    “A homemade screw shoe is a cheap way to give yourself immediate traction. It’s best to use an older pair of running shoes you don’t mind drilling into. Here is a Surefooted method form Runners World.

    Buy sheet–metal screws from the hardware store, Home Depot, etc. Their heads have a lip that grips ice well. Half–inch screws are best because they are long enough to stay secure without piercing the insole. If those seem too long for your shoe, use a 3/8″ screw.

    Insert 10 to 15 screws directly into the raised treads of the shoe. Space them out. If your midsole is made of “air” or “gel,” keep the screws along the outside edge of the outsole. A cordless drill with a 1/4″ socket can do the job in less than a minute. Stop when the head of the screw touches the rubber outsole of the shoe.”

    Our winters are WET so I usually retreat indoors to my workout room for the duration unless we have snow to enjoy. In addition to racking up miles on the treadmill and stationary bike I have plenty of workout DVDs and downloads. I keep free weights at my desk so I can do strength training when on hold or during a break. I do Pilates twice a week because I love it and so does my body!

    I’ve worked out regularly for years and know how crummy I feel if I have to go more than a day without it, so it’s not a struggle to do so during the winter.

    1. Julia, My goodness, you guys are so innovative! Gotta say, though, it sounds like quite a project, and I’m particularly good at projects. LOL! Sounds like you have figured out what works best for you and that’s fantastic. Thank you for sharing what you do and thank you for those directions too. So helpful.

      1. Hi, Nancy –

        Actually, this was so quick and easy I couldn’t believe it. We had the screws in the garage, as well as old walking shoes that I recycle into gardening shoes. Each pair took about 2 minutes, using a power screwdriver!

  4. Dear Nancy,
    Thank you for the motivational email.
    If you detected a slight bit of snarkasm in those words, you could be right, not saying you are,
    but you could be………….okay, you’re right……….:)
    I hate the word exercise. Although, in a way, there is very little difference between that word and exorcise, just my opinion…….my problem is that the demon in me is supposed to be helping me prevent a recurrence, you know, that damn little pill……………..and that demon makes the thought of exercise feel like an exorcism some days. I am pretty sure my head spun around a couple times today and I have a hankering for some pea soup. I think I may have hissed a few times also……
    All I know is my left hip hurts, my right thumb knuckle hurts, my head hurts, my eyes hurt, my left big toe hurts……………………………..there is not much “left” that doesn’t hurt!
    But I digress……………
    I am trying to be good, I really am, but somedays are better than others. And I truly wanted to go for a little hike today.The sun was out and even though it is winter in New England, it has been pretty darn nice this past week. Hell, it was almost 70 on Sunday! I worked out in the yard that day and took charge of some dead weeds and small trees. Damn that felt good. Oh, I know the weeds will grow back in Spring if I let them (or get lazy)(or have some other excuse) But I did do a lot of bending and stretching and yanking and raking and grunting and groaning, so I got some damn exercise.
    And scrapes and cuts and prickers in my knickers.
    But I can say that I always feel better after I have been outside and done something physical (until later when I seize up like the tin woman)
    You are right, as long as you are moving and grooving, you are getting some exercise. So, instead of a little hike, I did more yardwork today.
    And I love the t-shirt I saw recently “I walked into a spider web and just got a weeks worth of cardio” I can proudly say that I have a lot of spider webs around my house. Inside and out…………
    so, like, yeah, I do cardio………………
    And yes, I do have an exorcise bike in my dining room. I cover it with sweaters and coats so it won’t mock me. As long as I go outside and do some yardwork, I can count my active avoidance as a physical activity and the bike can go screw itself…….
    Vacuuming furiously around the bike can be very satisfying. This act of avoidance must be more effective than riding that damn bike I tell myself convincingly…………
    But some days the bike wins a little victory, I stub my toe on it and end up dancing around the dining room trying not to fall on my arse. That counts as exercise, am I wrong?
    I have seriously considered getting a dog. I could use a good and loyal companion. I could show it so many good places where we could hike.
    I could put the dog bed right where the bike is……….

    1. Tarzangela, We’ve got a big yard and there’s always way too much yard work to do during the non-winter months. In winter I get to shovel. Yay. Not. Although, I actually don’t mind doing a little of that, and I definitely count it as exercise too. Any sort of yard work is exercise, so you go girl. Gosh, that’s a warm spell you had. I’m not gonna lie, our treadmill often doubles as a clothes tree. At one time We had a bike, too, but never really got into that for some reason. Maybe a dog is a good idea when you are ready. They do sorta force to get outside, and they do make walks more fun. And yeah, the dog bed…haha. Thank you for sharing.

      1. yeeaahh…shoveling………..I get to do a little of that after you guys get hit with this latest snow event. It is going to be 9 degrees here tonight! A far cry from 70 degrees!
        I count shoveling as a double activity and it should always include a reward afterwards 🙂
        And I actually don’t really mind shoveling either (most of the time)

  5. Love this blog. Our winters are quite mild and wet in comparison with yours so if you’re walking in the countryside it can be muddy. So one of my tips is to invest in a pair of wellies … x

    1. Julia, Mud presents its own challenges, doesn’t it? We get our share of that around here when March rolls around. This is gonna sound really dumb, but I don’t even know what wellies are. But thanks for the tip ‘cuz I’m sure everyone else does! I’m glad you liked this post. Thanks for letting me know.

  6. Oh the guilt the shame, I’ve no excuse except my cat keeps beckoning me back indoors and sadly my neuropathy loves to act up in the cold. I can dress for the Antarctic with layers and long undies and gloves and hiking boots, but I come in and my hands just seethe in pain. So indoors it is. I dance for 30-45 minutes to my husbands laughter – I’m not as bad as Elaine from Seinfeld – but I don’t care. It’s a happiness raising, joyful winter blues buster and carries me over to the warmer days of spring.

    No dog required

    1. Ilene, Please, no guilt or shame! When you have pain like you described, it gets extra tough to do any sort of exercise, I mean, movement. Dancing indoors seems like a perfect option. I’m picturing you doing that right now! Thank you for sharing. Spring isn’t too far off…

  7. Walking almost every day is part of my routine. I think once it’s part of your routine no matter what, then it’s hard to miss. But having an active dog, or any dog, helps a lot! I also like to sign up for some sort of race or event at least once a year. That motivates me to stick to my routine. Thanks for sharing my links.

    1. Lindsay, Agree that having a dog definitely helps! It is harder in winter months though. It just is. Having a back up is required, for me anyway. And you’re welcome. They’re very helpful links.

  8. Ugh. I really wanted to pass this article by. We did daily walks when we lived in California. On the rare rainy days, we walked the mall. But here in Iowa, I have to face cold (and since chemo broke my body’s thermostat, I’m always cold), ice, and bad sidewalks. Covid has kept us away from malls. So it’s hard. Fail.

    1. Linda, I hear you. Winter is challenging, especially this winter with everything that’s going on, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Spring is month after next! 🙂

  9. I can relate so much! I’m not a huge fan of the cold but I live in Canada, so …. yeah. But once I’m out, I’m so glad I bundled up and got fresh air. My dog really has made all the difference, but my tip would be to find a trail or forested area to walk through if possible. For me, the stillness, beauty of nature and sometimes the unexpected wildlife passing by just brings about a calmness to my day that I don’t get with walks around the neighbourhood. Even a short 20 minute walk is beneficial to me.

    1. Vesna, Yeah, hard to escape the cold when living in Canada. I agree, it’s the getting out the door that’s hardest for me too. Once I’m out, I do alright. Most of the time anyway. It’s nice if finding a trail or forested area is an option. Regardless, taking in nature, the stillness and wildlife is definitely a real plus, no matter what season it is. For some of us, a 20 minute walk isn’t all that short! 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  10. I found a walking partner but just as we are about to venture out this week it started POURING with winds in the 50mph range – so we can’t feel too guilty and given my second back up plan is dancing for 45 min to an hour and running around the house doing heavy housework I think I’ll be okay. I’ve had a bad case of recurring cellulitis and I’m supposed to be off my feet. Sure thing. Lucky for me dear Craig got a maneuverable bed so I can sleep with my feet pretty high up. That and my magic baths of 2 cups apple cider vinegar 2 cups of baking soda and 2 cups Epsom sals with a nice splash of essential oils of my choice it works like a reversed transdermal and pulls out all the impurities from the body into the water. I recommend for anyone on long term targeted therapy, any IV chemo and even radiation therapy. The first time I did one the water was literally gray as if I had put a brand new black shirt in a white wash! But there’s indoor fun ways to get the pulse going, have fun and then get back outside when the weather improves. I know for me when it dips below 35 no matter how I’m dressed I feel like my bones are broken glass from my bone mets, which are healing but over time can be very painful in the cold especially- so I try my very best but always find a way to exercise. With so much science backed research on the benefits of exercises and cancer no one can say it’s not going to help – even at our worst there is Qui Gong, gentle yoga, seated yoga, stretching and other ways to strengthen the body and keep the joints supple and your blood flowing. I totally understand the cold weather issue though. With red blood cells in the toilet it’s hard to keep warm even in a bunch of layers and with long underwear!

    1. Ilene, Oh gosh, 50mph wind is not safe. I like your backup plan! How nice that Craig got you that maneuverable bed and your magic baths sound like they are doing you a lot of good too. Guess we all just have to keep try to keep moving in whatever ways we can. Good thing you live in CA! Thank you for sharing.

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