UNC Health Care
runner exercising in the snow

Winter-Proof Your Workout

Working out in the winter can give you more energy and improve your overall mood. Moderate exercise can even give your immune system a boost and keep you from catching every cold virus you encounter.

Here are six tips to get started:

1. Recruit a workout buddy.

A friend to regularly exercise with can motivate you to lace up your running shoes and hit the pavement.

“Finding a friend to commit you to that workout will help you stay accountable,” says Lauren Rosella, wellness instructor at REX Wellness Center of Garner. “If you have a workout buddy, that’s one of the best ways to be successful because you’re committing yourself to somebody else and they’re committing to you so you hold each other accountable.

2. Adjust your thermostat.

If you work out in the morning, it can get really hard to wake up early once the days start getting shorter. Rosella suggests adjusting your thermostat in the morning, so it’s warmer when you wake up and “place your workout clothes near a heater so that when you put them on they’re nice and warm.”

3. Pick some fun wake-up music.

Speaking of motivating yourself to get out of bed, Rosella suggests selecting an uplifting, motivating song as your alarm and says it can be helpful to place the alarm across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. Once you’re up, turn on the lights immediately so you’re not tempted to crawl back under the covers.

4. Get the correct winter gear.

Dress in layers that you can remove as you start to sweat, and avoid cotton, which stays wet next to your skin. A layer of fleece or wool topped by a waterproof layer helps to insulate. Be sure to protect your head, hands, feet and ears from frostbite with a hat, gloves and extra socks.

“Make sure you protect your hands and your face from the cold,” Rosella says. “A lot of times we bundle up, but then we forget the parts of us that are exposed to the cold.”

Don’t forget sunscreen because you still need it when exposed to the winter sun.  And be sure to change immediately after your workout, so you’re not wearing wet clothing in the cold, Rosella says.

5. Find a fun winter activity.

Get excited for winter weather by taking up an exercise hobby that you can only do in the winter. Try ice-skating, snowshoeing and skiing if there’s snow. Or move your workouts indoors in the winter months. Explore a new indoor fitness activity such as a cycling class, dancing, yoga or swimming.

“The wintertime is a really good time to try new exercises and new workouts,” Rosella says. “There are a lot of opportunities to take free classes or try out new classes or new studios. It’s a good time to change the routine so you don’t get bored.”

6. Set a goal.

Want to compete in an open water swim next summer or hike Machu Picchu? Or maybe set a new personal record in your upcoming half marathon? Use the winter months to help you prepare to crush your goals.

“It’s definitely easy to get caught up in a rut of not exercising as the months get cooler,” Rosella says, “so continuing to hold yourself accountable throughout the winter months is really great.”


If you’re interested in moving your workouts indoors, contact your local wellness center. If you don’t have one, learn more about REX Wellness Centers and UNC Wellness Centers.