Winter fitness

How to keep moving when daylight’s short, temperatures cold

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The weather is cold outside and good food abounds inside. Why exercise or go outside?

Your body and your mood benefit if you keep moving during the colder months. Exercise helps keep your heart healthy and prevents the gain of a pound or more that you have to lose after the New Year. Evidence also shows that contact with nature helps us to be more creative, to heal more quickly and, since we’re outside, to absorb Vitamin D from the sunshine.

“People with diabetes will see their blood sugar come down if they combine exercise with a good diet,” said Nasrin Bagheri, community health educator at El Centro Family Health. “Exercise helps lower blood pressure and improve heart health. Everything in your body, including all the chemicals, enzymes and digestion, work better when you keep moving. It is also good for mental health. If you are inside and not active, there is more chance of depression.”

If you haven’t been active, ask your health care professional for advice on how to get started.

Outdoors

In Taos, it’s easy to get moving outside. While the lack of snow so far this year has been an obstacle for some winter sports, the sunny weather has made it easier to be outside for other activities. We asked local residents about their favorite ways to stay healthy and active in the winter – with or without snow.

“Join a gym. Go winter hiking. Take up snowshoeing. Go sledding so that you have to climb up the hill over and over,” said massage therapist Tiffany Jama.

Skiing is something that some of us look forward to all year. Taos Ski Valley is open for downhill skiing. For cross country skiing, you can visit Enchanted Forest near Red River. They have lessons as well as more than 20 miles of trails and snowshoe trails with a dog-friendly area, too. Enchanted Forest will open as soon as enough snow falls, probably after the first of the year.

Walking is a great way to get started. Get out at lunch for the best weather and to clear your head for the afternoon. Taos is part of a new movement called “Park Prescription” that promotes walking as a way to increase individual and community health.

In town, Kit Carson and Fred Baca Parks include paths, with more coming soon. Adjacent to Fred Baca Park, the Taos Land Trust is developing a new trail on its Rio Fernando land. “We are taking public input at Rio Fernando Park all winter, so walk the .25 mile loop and some of our less developed trails a few times,” said Kristina Ortez de Jones, executive director. “Tell us what you think and warm yourself up with a hot beverage this winter at the Taos Land Trust property. Nature is accessible, even in bad weather. You just have to be prepared for it.”

Taos is surrounded by miles of hiking trails. Some of the closest are Devisadero and South Boundary that are less than three miles away from Taos Plaza in Taos Canyon.

If you have a dog, he or she needs to be walked regardless of the weather. “I keep walking with the dog, a couple of miles a day. Sometimes we take hikes on the mesa or down by the river. I might add some small weights this winter so that lifting that first bag of potting soil in March isn’t torture,” said gardener Nan Fischer.

With all the sunny days we have in the winter, it is possible to keep riding your bike, too. “I ride my mountain bike all winter long. The trails are in excellent shape and when there is snow on the ground, riding a fat bike is a fun experience. And the dog gets to ride along with me,” said Shari Heier of Gearing Up Bikes. The shop is giving TSV and Mountain Collective pass holders a 50-percent discount on fat bikes for the season. Fat bikes are bicycles with oversized tires that are designed for off-road riding and work especially well on soft surfaces, such as snow or sand.

Working in the yard, raking leaves or getting the garden ready for winter is a great way to stay active as is shoveling snow and chopping wood for the fireplace or wood stove. Some jobs keep you moving. John Kayser said, “I’m more active with my job at the Taos Ski Valley during the winter than I am in the summer months.”

When you go outdoors, dress in layers that can be adjusted as temperatures change. Wear a hat and gloves and carry water and high-energy snacks.

Indoors

When it is too cold or dark to be outside, you can find a workout inside. A couple of options are the weight room, zumba or aqua aerobics at High Altitude Fitness or spinning and kickboxing at Taos Spa and Tennis Club on the southside. There are a number of yoga studios, including Hot Yoga in Arroyo Seco and Shree Yoga on Camino de la Placita. You might want to find a tai chi or martial arts class to improve your balance, strength and coordination.

“The High Frequency Loft on Gusdorf Road has all kinds of fun ways to stay fit this winter from ski conditioning, yoga, ecstatic dance, acroyoga and more,” said co-founder Alana Lee. Acroyoga is a combination of acrobatics and yoga.

Try swimming or ice skating at the Taos Youth and Family Center, suggests Matt Foster.

At home, you can practice what you’ve learned or get a yoga video. You can even learn hula or other cultural dance or make use of an exercise video or smartphone app to help you stay motivated.

Mix it up

Taoseños love to mix it up. Herbologist Lucy McCall recommends, “Yoga by the fire, chop wood, carry water, dance!”

Runner and artist Bruce Katlin said trail running, snowshoeing, cross country and alpine skiing, kick boxing and laughter yoga keep him healthy in the winter.

Former resident Ginny Williams adds, “Hiking can be so much more enjoyable in cooler weather. And if it is just too cold or stormy, yoga videos are a runner-up.” Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube and doyogawithme.com are both free and have many yoga videos for every skill level.”

Fun and service

With school out for the holidays, family activities become easier to organize. You might go to the park to play with the kids or go for a walk with a neighbor. There are indoor winter sports leagues for basketball in Taos and almost every weekend night you can listen to music and dance.

You can get your exercise while you help out a non-profit. Stray Hearts needs volunteers to walk dogs year-round. You can improve your health and improve the life of a dog at the same time. There are lots of high-energy dogs that could use a walk and some love. Call Stray Hearts at (575) 758-2981 to find out about its orientation program.

The benefits

“Don’t shy away from exercising in cold weather. Dress warm in layers and drink plenty of water while exercising. Exercising regularly in winter takes a little creativity and the results are improved mood, increased energy and better sleep at night,” said Colleen Unkel, family nurse practitioner at Taos Health Primary Care.

The key to success is choosing something that is realistic for your life and that you enjoy. If you stay moving this winter, you will feel better, look better and be ready for spring. In the process, you may increase the number of years you live and the health and joy of those years, too.

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