Don't escape winter—embrace it! This season, hit the trails, rinks or hills with these heart-pumping, calorie-burning, fat-melting sports.
- 500 calories per hour
- Low to medium intensity
You might not know the difference between a twizzle (a quick 360-degree turn on one foot) and a swizzle (a forward-propelled skate where feet make an hourglass-shaped motion), but that shouldn't stop you from gliding your way to some serious fitness goals—you can score a significant burn without even noticing. Meagan Duhamel, a Montreal-based Olympic pairs skating silver medallist and two-time world champion, suggests making it an interval-training session by switching up the pace from fast to slow. Don't forget to change direction: Skating forward conditions your glutes, while backward movements engage your quads. And it's not all about the legs; your core will also get a workout, as those muscles are helping keep you balanced.
The beginner winter warrior. "Skating is great for the heart and the lungs. If the wind-chill factor is below -15°C and you have heart or respiratory problems, stick to an indoor rink," says Debbie Childerhose, a physiotherapist at Women's College Hospital in Toronto.
Before you start
Make sure your skates fit properly, and if lacing up new ones, prepare to break them in for a few minutes over the first couple of skating sessions. Sharpen blades at least twice each year: at the beginning of winter and halfway through the season. If skating on outdoor ice that's cleaned less thoroughly or frequently than indoor arenas, your blades will need more regular upkeep, says Duhamel. When it comes to clothing, remember your ABCs: anything but cotton, which absorbs moisture, making you colder faster as you sweat. Wear warm, loose-fitting clothes so you can easily move around, and invest in a pair of high-quality socks with merino wool to keep toes toasty.
1. Flaunt your best figure-eight loops with these padded and lined skates, which deliver both comfort and warmth. Glacier SoftSkate fleece skates, $90, sportchek.ca.
2. Stand out and stay warm in stylish ombré tights. This pair works well on its own but can also double as a base layer. Nike Pro HyperWarm tights, $84, nike.com.
3. Look the part with a tuque that will also keep you toasty. This one comes with a removable pom-pom! Slouch cable-knit tuque, $70, tilley.com.
4. Give arctic chill the cold shoulder with merino-wool socks to keep feet warm and dry. Hike+ light crew socks, $25, icebreaker.com.
-700 calories per hour
- Medium to high intensity
"If you can walk, you can snowshoe," says Bruce Kirkby, a Kimberley, B.C.–based adventure junkie, writer and Mountain Equipment Co-op brand ambassador. Think of snowshoeing as winter's version of hiking—an endurance-boosting, lower-body- conditioning workout that sculpts legs and glutes thanks to the elevated knee action when treading through snow. To prevent the snowshoes' frames from colliding, keep feet hip-width apart. To maintain balance, use poles and lean hands forward and hinge at the waist, says Kirkby. Today's high-tech snowshoes are sleek and fuss-free—just fasten them onto water-resistant winter boots and lay some tracks. Bonus: It's free! Aside from you renting or buying a set of snowshoes, it can be done anywhere there's accumulated snowfall. Though the snowshoe's main job is to help you stay on top of the white stuff, depending on conditions (such as a light and fluffy snowfall), you might find yourself sinking more than treading.
The moderately active woman. Snowshoeing allows you to choose your own intensity based on speed and terrain. Punch up the intensity by seeking out hills, even small ones. Lean into the incline when climbing and lean back slightly when descending, advises Kirkby. The sharper the slope and the faster you ascend, the more you'll achieve a cardio-boosting, muscle-sculpting workout. To double the calorie count, pick up the pace. Expect to be physically challenged, so monitor your level of exertion—you should be able to talk.
Before you start
"Cold weather coupled with an outdoor activity can be taxing, so don't go straight from sitting to working out," says Childerhose. Warm up indoors by marching on the spot and circling arms. Before heading out, layer clothing according to climate and your preference. Wear waterproof boots, and strap on snowshoes last.
1. There's no need to tread lightly with these insulated and waterproof all-terrain boots. Their high-traction rubber soles grip ice with ease. Merrell Aurora 6 Ice+ waterproof boots, $180, sportchek.ca.
2. Sleet and slush are no match for this lightweight but sturdy aluminum-framed snowshoe with undercarriage spikes to help propel you through trails. Atlas Rendezvous Elektra snowshoes, $165, mec.ca.
3. Inclement weather shouldn't keep you from outdoor adventures. Regardless of what winter throws your way, stay warm in this parka, which is down-insulated to help lock in heat. Ultralight down parka, $100, uniqlo.ca.
- 900 calories per hour
- High intensity
If you're seeking the ultimate cold-weather sport for burning maximum calories, look no further than Nordic skiing. It's a total-body-conditioning, heart-pounding workout. "It engages your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems to deliver results," says Beckie Scott, a three-time Olympic cross-country skier in Canmore, Alta. There are two styles of cross-country skiing: classic and skating. Classic, where legs stay parallel and knees are slightly bent, is the more traditional method. "You push off with the ball of the foot, kicking straight back to gain momentum," says Scott. "Keep poles by your sides—not too far ahead or behind you. Be sure to use the correct base wax to grip tracks, unless using waxless skis." Skate skiing is classic cross-country's "sexier cousin," where legs are positioned in a V-shape. The skis are slightly shorter, and glide wax is used on the base. For both styles, keep your upper and lower body relaxed and your hips forward (don't sit too far back) and use the poles to push.
The high-endurance-seeking enthusiast—though you can make runs less vigorous if you need to. There's no better full-body workout with benefits: It targets every muscle (hello, toned legs and back), and improves endurance, strength and balance, says Scott.
Before you start
Have the proper equipment and clothing, and stay properly hydrated throughout. "Start with a slow warm-up: March on the spot with dynamic stretches for a total of four to six minutes to get the blood circulating to active muscles and to raise your core temperature," says Childerhose. Feeling rusty or unsure if the sport is for you? Rent some skis and book an hour-long or half-day lesson. Wear layers, but don't overdress: Start with a "next-to-skin" base layer with merino wool or a synthetic knit to wick moisture away from your body. Add a second layer for additional warmth and, if necessary, top it off with a piece of insulated outerwear. "Most people underestimate how quickly they'll warm up and how hard they'll work," says Scott.
1. Whether you're sticking to the tracks or blazing your own trail, these versatile skis yield great glide, along with reliable stability. Salomon Snowscape 7 Siam skis, $189, mec.ca.
2. Put the freeze on frostbite with a pair of water-resistant gloves that add warmth without bulk. Kombi The Original gloves, $45, liveoutthere.com.
3. Combining practical features (such as moisture-absorbing properties and built-in stretch) with sleek design, this functional hoodie gives snow days the brush-off. New Balance for J.Crew seamless hoodie, $124, jcrew.com.
4. Layer up with this insulated wind- and water-resistant vest that will keep you warm—not wet. Flicker vest, $100, mec.ca.