By Kris Rich, NBC-HWC, CPT, CET
January in Michigan equals colder temps and snow for sure. But instead of staying inside and avoiding the white stuff, there are many outdoor activities that take advantage of this beautiful snowy season. Why not embrace the drifts and conquer some of those New Year’s resolutions to exercise and burn some calories?
Take your adventure downhill.
One of the most popular ways to get outside as soon as the snow hits is to grab a sled and head for the hills. Sledding is a great family-friendly activity, no matter your style—whether you’re a speed racer or a gentle rider. Some resorts around Michigan, such as Shanty Creek, Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain, also offer snow-covered courses to conquer; all you have to do it grab a tube and ride up to the top. And as an added bonus to the great views, you can burn between 400-500 calories an hour.
Looking for other ways to head downhill? Strap on the skis or snowboard (don’t forget a helmet for safety!) and venture out to one of Michigan’s more than 30 ski resorts. Crystal Mountain and Caberfae are only two hours north of Grand Rapids, while Mt. Brighton and Mt. Holly are just east of Detroit. Not only are skiing and snowboarding great ways to build memories with friends and family, but you can also burn nearly 500 calories an hour doing either activity.
Travel along the trails.
One of the best winter activities to get your heart rate going is cross country skiing. There are numerous groomed trails at various ski resorts and sports complexes. If you cross country ski for one hour you will burn an average of 550 calories. Don’t have a cross country complex nearby? Get a better work out by skiing the fresh snow. Try the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, a ski resort such as Crystal Mountain or one of the Boynes, or any number of local cross country trails.
If you enjoy walking, enhance your walk by snowshoeing across the snowy terrain. Snowshoeing burns around 500 calories an hour. Fun for friends and family alike, snowshoeing will get your heart pumping and keep you warm out in the cold.
Is biking more your style? Try fat tire biking through the snow on one of Michigan’s 216 trails. The wider tires provide a greater surface area to grip the ground, allowing bikers to ride outside no matter the weather. Explore farther with a fat tire bike, all while burning around 500 calories an hour. Live in or are heading to the Detroit area? Check out the Great Lakes Bay Regional Trail system. With beautiful shoreline views, this is one trail you don’t want to miss.
Tie up those ice skates.
Hockey is a popular sport across Michigan and encourages residents to make use of the abundant frozen ponds and lakes. It also helps that Detroit is known as “Hockeytown,” featuring the home team Detroit Red Wings. But you don’t have to be a hockey player to make use of the ice. Ice skating is a fun activity you can do as a family.
Many cities across Michigan make use of the below freezing temperatures and build intricate ice skating rinks. In downtown Detroit, you can skate at Campus Martius Park, while downtown Grand Rapids creates a rink each winter in Rosa Park Circle. The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex constructs an ice “trail” so that visitors can skate through the woods. No matter where you skate, you can burn up to 500 calories an hour through general ice skating. The best part? You don’t need snow to skate, just those nice cold temps.
Have a ball, a snowball that is.
You don’t have to head anywhere special to make use of the snow. Go out in your yard and play in the snow with your kids. Build a snowman, make snow angels or have a friendly snowball fight. Just playing outside in the winter snow, you can burn around 300 calories each hour.
Get outside even without the white stuff.
We live in Michigan, where it can be below zero one day with flurries then 40 degrees and sunny the next. You don’t need snow to head outdoors and enjoy a Great Lakes winter. You can still hike the trails, where it’s beautiful, scenic and peaceful just to be outside in the quiet of winter enjoying nature. Ice skating is an option, too, whether the ground is white or not. Biking is also great in winter with or without snow. Give fat tire bikes a try—they’re made for winter riding.
Set your sights on an upcoming race.
Think spring, because it’ll be here before we know it. Training for 5Ks, 10Ks and beyond is a great way to boost your activity in January. Michigan has so many scenic races year-round that support great causes and they really pick up starting around St. Patrick’s Day: from the Irish Jig in Grand Rapids to the Corktown Races in Detroit. Try a couch to 5K training app or walk/run plan if you’re new to running, or consider one of the Gazelle Sports training programs available throughout the state. Setting a goal to run a race really helps with motivation to get outside in the winter and train. Ask a friend to join you, train in tandem and cross the finish line together. You might want to consider joining the Priority Health Champions program for a supportive community and extra incentives for staying active—like discounts on race fees, a chance to win free gear and more.
Many Michiganders dread this time of year and dream of flying off to tropical destinations, but it’s important to make the most of the winter months and try new activities that will get you moving outside. Just being outdoors, snow or no snow, for a few minutes a day really helps with the winter blues. Whether you engage in an all-day activity like skiing or sledding, go for a quick walk or bike ride, or simply step outside to breathe in some cold, fresh air—you’re doing your body and wellbeing a big favor. Often times, the hardest part is just getting out the door! Once you do that, you may be surprised on how much time you end up spending outside.
So try turning snow days into fun ways to burn calories in the mitten—just remember to bundle up with your hat and gloves.
About the Author: Kristina Rich, NBC-NWC, CPT, CET is a nationally-certified health and wellness coach at Priority Health. She works with members to help them develop a personalized plan for their own health and wellbeing based on what is realistic and beneficial to them. Kristina is also a certified personal trainer and cancer exercise trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine.