Winter in Colorado is unquestionably beautiful: we have majestic mountains, brilliant sunshine, and, of course, snow. Winter is December through February, with average February temperatures in Boulder peaking at 48 with lows of 23 degrees. Brrrrrr. We have colder temperatures and shorter days (which is hard for a night owl like me who wakes up at noon only to have the sun set at 4 or 5). Colorado is also known as a healthy place to live. In fact, Boulder has routinely ranked highly as one of the fittest cities in the country. Whether those rankings take into account the decrease in activity during the winter months is unclear.
And yes, we all know, Colorado is an amazing place for winter sports. Some very special people with an affinity for freezing temperatures and early mornings make magic happen with every winter snowfall, driving up the mountains to land backsides and 1040’s and other tricks with mechanics I can’t comprehend. Those folks are few and far between.
Approximately 500,000 Coloradans skied in the 2013-2014 season, according to Curbed. That’s just 9 percent of Colorado’s estimated 5.2 million population; To be clear, those 500,000 Colorado skiers account for about 5.6 million of the state’s 12.6 million skier visits, nearly half, and you read that correctly: more people ski our slopes annually than live in our state. Finally, we can’t forget that there are also other winter sports, including sledding, luging and more. But really, the majority of us don’t work out as much as we should and those of us that try to workout often feel like skipping the gym on a frosted morning or a snowy day is just what the doctor ordered. *raises hand in shame*
Staying active is important, though, regardless of the weather, and getting regular exercise is essential for physical – and mental – wellness. Colorado residents are not immune to mental illness. Nationally, 6 percent of individuals are affected by seasonal affective disorder, and an additional 14 percent suffers from the winter blues. While maintaining an active lifestyle will not cure these conditions, it has been proven an effective tool in reducing symptoms.
Winter can make squeezing in regular activity more challenging, but it is not impossible, and since we’re not even close to being the experts, we talked to a few folks that are.
Let’s Meet the Team
Jim Pascucci, a competitive CrossFit athlete, started and owned Integral CrossFit for seven years until they changed the name to Integral Health and Fitness about a year ago. Integral is a gym and home to Jim’s Rolfing practice in Niwot. Rolfing affects body posture and structure over the long-term through soft tissue manipulation and movement education. “I wanted to integrate the two: exercise and body therapy.”
Patrick Purtell is 44 years old, father of one, and happily married for near 12 years. He’s also the only one we talked to who’s a regular workout guy, not a professional athlete or trainer/coach, although he has an athletic background. He’s been working in the IT industry for over 18 years and the bulk of his day “revolves around sitting in front of a computer screen. Also, Patrick tells us, he is “an ex-smoker of almost 15 years and quitting smoking was the catalyst for taking up running and jogging.”
Stacy Fleming recently opened one of the wildly popular fitness franchises, “THE MAX Challenge”; it’s the first one in Colorado. She comes from 22 years working in corporate America and “was looking for a more fulfilling career where I can help people make healthy life decisions and create a welcoming community where all people, from all fitness levels, feel they can exercise and get healthy”. THE MAX Challenge combines fitness classes with nutrition and motivation so members can see fast and lasting changes to their health, appearance and fitness levels in 10 weeks.
[Editor’s note: Our managing editor will be attending the inaugural class at THE MAX Challenge, which began January 7, as part of his health and wellness training and writing projects. He also attended classes last February at Define: Body + Mind, where he took Barre, Cycling and Yoga/ Mind-Ball/Hammock classes.]
We asked our pros a few questions about how they handle winter workouts and keep their clients motivated.
What sorts of winter workouts do the our pros use to stay fit and active in the winter? Jim’s winter program is not much different from “any other time of the year except more is done inside. Because we are a gym based program we are not affected by the weather except for running,” he tells me. “Programming is based on … weightlifting, gymnastics and cardio. We mix and match these three modalities to create workouts for our classes and private clients,” which means you can get a lot done without having to be outside.
People wouldn’t think of running as a winter workout activity. By people, I mean me, but I’m guessing you, too. Patrick is a runner, so I was interested in how he maintains through the cold. “For 2018 my goals were to run an average of 65 miles a month, keep my average run time to around 8 minutes 30 seconds a mile, and to run several half marathons,” which is an incredible level of activity for anyone. He typically runs three times a week, between 7 and 11 miles in length.
“Luckily,” he says, “Erie has tons of trails so I have a half dozen routes I use depending on a length of run, how I physically feel at the time, weather, etc.” In a weird twist that I was expecting, Patrick prefers “to run in cold weather, the colder the better as far as I’m concerned”. But why? For Patrick, “there’s an extremely gratifying feeling finishing a run when the thermometer is hovering around the zero mark. Not only did I finish the run but I also beat Old Man Winter [Editor’s note: not a real person so far as we can tell]. It’s all about those small wins, right? “I will not run when there’s a lot of snow or ice on the trails themselves, as it’s easy to get hurt in those conditions so I don’t even try”. There you go, folks. Stay safe out there. Some days actually are days off when it’s cold.
Staying motivated to workout in the winter is what concerns us most. I can’t even get out from under my covers when it’s cold. Jim doesn’t have an issue with the cold at Integral, since it’s all indoors. Keeping classes small and having competent coaches is the trick. Also, he says, “we are not a gym that emphasizes the ‘sport’ aspect as much as the longevity aspect. Being strong enough to get up off the ground if you fall, being able to chase your kids… Having an ‘adaptive capacity’ which allows you to weather some adverse event better,” which is to say, working out is about living your life to the fullest and most able. A lot of the motivation to train comes from making it fun and having others who are there training and suffering with you.
Patrick is blunt in telling us, “it’s difficult to get motivated and stay motivated when it’s cold, dark, and/or snowing out. Being completely honest, I always contemplate my sanity as I’m walking out of my warm (and dry) house.” It’s the workout process, Patrick tell us, the run, when “all the noise fades away and I’m completely focused on the task at hand. For me, running is great way to get exercise and [be] in total control of how difficult or easy to make it.”
Speaking for THE MAX Challenge, Stacy says the “program historically does the best in the winter and spring months. Members are thinking about their New Year’s resolutions and spring/summer bodies”. Accurate, Stacy, but how do you keep members showing up? Knowing that the program is primarily for weight loss and strength building means folks are motivated to finish and the program “also helps build strength and endurance for those winter activities, ”which someone not in the right shape would feel prohibited from doing.”
Having a bit of accountability can be a big motivator. “We contact our members if they miss a class to ensure they are well, and ensure we are doing everything possible to encourage them to come to class the next day.” I’ve never followed through on a workout program without knowing my failure to show up was noticed and affected others.
Stacy points out that, “each of our 50 classes during the challenge is unique, no two workouts are the same. Members are interested to attend class and get in a new unique workout they’ve never done before”. We also love variation.
Patrick has some advice for folks who want to get more active in the winter: “ Think of your workout as x-amount of time that you’re focusing on yourself. It’s easy to caught up with work or being a parent and focusing on everyone else but yourself, which is fine, but at some point you’ll need some ‘me’ time.” We couldn’t agree more. Stay active, friends, and remember that there are a million reasons to workout through the winter.
Don’t let Jack Frost steal your spirit.