When it’s cold outside, the fire is crackling and Netflix is calling, it can be really hard to get motivated to actually do a workout. I mean, changing into a sports bra…enough said (why is changing your bra such a hurdle)? Fortunately my Cadenshae nursing bras are so comfortable that I practically live in them, but I hear your pain. So let me tell you why wintertime is my favourite time of year to exercise (and I’m not making this up just for the article)!
You don’t overheat.
I am not a fan of exercising in the middle of summer. I know some of you girls love it, but the harder I work, the hotter I get, and when I get overheated I just completely run out of puff. I just feel like I hit a wall. But in winter, it’s far cooler, freezing even, and I find the temperature so much more bearable. And if it’s too cold, that’s just great motivation to move a little faster.
You can cover up.
After three children, let’s just say my body has been through it all. And even though I’m confident and comfortable with who I am as a mum, I’m still a bit body conscious. Great clothes can help that mum tum (thank you Cadenshae leggings) but I have to say, I love that I can layer up and not worry about the bits that jiggle.
You get the best places without the crowds.
I’ll tell you below more about why I love hiking in winter, but playgrounds, hikes, indoor pools etc. are far less busy in the wintertime. While everyone else is hibernating inside, you can enjoy popular spots without the crowds.
So, now that you know why I love getting out and active in winter, let me tell you my four best ways to get your body moving without hitting a gym.
- Hiking in Winter.
- Biking with a Tow Trailer.
- Skiing or Ice Skating.
- Playground Workouts.
1. Hiking in Winter.
Now before you tell me that you have multiple kids and it’s far too cold to hike or walk in winter, let me tell you that I have three children (five, four and one) and we live in Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand, where its common to have winter temperatures just above 0 degrees and we do get snow.
I love to go on good walks in the winter as it doesn’t require too much mental pressure. Compared to a run where you have to tell yourself to keep pace, to keep going while your lungs are burning, hiking is just one foot in front of the other. I recommend finding an uphill walk as it’s the fastest way to keep warm.
We walked to Mt John Observatory (Lake Tekapo - a two hour return walk) at 4c in the middle of winter, and the kids were down to just a thermal and a t-shirt. The views of the azure blue Lake Tekapo were incredible, and the kids loved it! You can find more about this, and other good walks for kids here.
The great thing about hiking is that you can also take your kids with you. My husband is a dairy farmer and we have no family nearby, so I literally have to take the kids wherever I go. Here are my best tips for hiking with kids:
Get a baby carrier:
If you have a little one, a baby carrier is essential. We have a soft shell ‘Ergobaby’ carrier and have used it for all three kids. These are great if you aren’t going too far, or don’t have too much gear to take with you. There is no room to take lunch, jackets or anything besides your car keys in these carriers, so they aren’t ideal on longer walks.
If you’re going on a longer walk and have to carry supplies with you, then a framed hiking backpack will be more suitable. These are a bit heavier to carry, often weighing 3-4kgs on their own, and have a harness for your child to be strapped into. There’s usually room to carry lunches, drink bottles, nappies, wipes and some extra clothing. If you haven’t hiked before with kids, have a few shorter practice walks first, as once a baby is on board, this load can be a little heavy. You can find these carriers in Kathmandu or Macpac, or there are great second hand deals on TradeMe.
Top tips for keeping your baby warm:
- You can get raincovers for the hiking bags, and even if rain is not forecast, bring it along as it can act as a windbreaker and keeps baby warm in the pack. Remember your baby or toddler is not moving around so they get cold fast.
- If you have gloves, or clothes that have the mits (like a Bonds Wondersuit) then these are perfect as their teeny hands get so cold.
- Shoes are good for keeping the wind out, and all in ones, or longer socks are helpful, as when kids sit down, their pants ride up, so you don’t want to expose their legs.
- Hats are essential, but if you have one with a tie, so they can’t pull them off, bring it along (the amount of trails we have had to backtrack for hats…ugh)!
Take the right gear with you:
Weather can turn extremely fast in winter, especially in New Zealand, so check the weather forecast and dress appropriately.
This is my hiking checklist:
- Water (and extra if you are a breastfeeding mother to keep up that supply).
- Snacks/lunch (‘hangry’ children are not fun to walk with, and mums, make sure you have some nutritious snacks to keep you sane, and to help with your milk supply). We always say we will have lunch at the top, so they are motivated to get there.
- Layers: I always put a polypro or merino layer underneath, have long sleeve t-shirts, a jersey/warm layer and waterproof jacket. I put the kids in the same. While it may get hot hiking uphill, you may be walking on a windy open ridge in 30 minutes time and it’s suddenly freezing.
- Nappies and wipes.
- Change of clothes for the baby in case of nappy mishaps.
- Charged cell-phone (and don’t forget to tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to be back).
In the car I also carry an extra set of clothes and shoes (in case they slip in the mud), extra food and drink, and even a blanket for extra warmth and snuggly naps on the way home. A picnic blanket is also a staple in our car. It’s somewhere to sit when the ground is wet, change their shoes, a changing mat for the baby, or to have an actual picnic on.
Choose the right trail for your kids:
I’m going to start off with my most controversial advice. Don’t choose a flat track. There, I said it. Unless a track is super interesting, like a walk around town with playgrounds or beach along the way, a flat trail that they say is great for kids always ends up being the worst option (but perhaps your kids are different).
The reason being, is that you can often see a long way ahead on flat trails, so they get bored easily and feel like they are going nowhere. Also as adults, we can walk much faster than kids on the flat, and we are often hurrying them along.
If I choose a trail that has some bush, climbs up hills or rocks, or has something to see at the end point, then my four year old has been able to walk up to three hours and my five year old up to 4.5 hours (so far). In all cases, these have been more difficult trails. Now that’s not to say for you to pick an advanced track first off and walk for four hours of your very first hike, but if you’re finding an easy flat trail is just not working, then don’t be discouraged.
We recently took a road trip to Mt Cook and Fiordland. This trip we wanted to push the boys on a bigger hike and see how they fared. First, we walked an easy flat to the Tasman Glacier Lake at Mt Cook, just over an hour return, and they complained the whole way. But, when they tackled the Lake Marian Track, they both managed two hours of walking uphill (then back again) through bush and river beds to an alpine lake. This completely took me by surprise and really changed my way of choosing the best hikes for them.
Top tip: Choose a track with bush or forest, rather than open air, as you will be sheltered from inclement weather. Uphill tracks will also keep you much warmer.
Bonus tip: Pack an extra set of clothes for yourself as when that cold sweat dries, you will be freezing. A thermos with a hot drink or soup is also clever if you have a long drive home.
2. Biking with a Tow Trailer.
One of the things that I really miss doing, is cycling. But, with young kids that aren’t quite fast enough to bike with us yet, the next best option is using a tow trailer. The reason I love a tow trailer in the winter is that they can protect your kids from the weather. They hate the wind, and combine that with cold temperatures...it can mean an unpleasant experience for the kids. So rug them up, pop them in a tow trailer, add in some toys, books or music to keep them entertained, and off you go. If you don’t want to buy one, ask around as you’ll be surprised who has one in their garage.
Best ideas for biking:
- A country road (far less traffic, or stopping and starting for driveways).
- Designated bike trails.
- Rail trails (those bumps will put the baby right to sleep).
- To meet a friend at a cafe (because coffee makes everything better, and it’s a great motivator to meet someone there).
- Google “river trails” in your area. A lot of towns have them, they’re often flat and great for biking.
3. Skiing and Ice Skating:
I love activities that work up a sweat, but don’t feel like you’re working hard! I don’t know about you, but pre kids I never realised what a workout my body was getting by a day on the mountain, but I swear the last time I skied, I activated muscles I hadn’t used in a very long time.
You have a couple of options if you have to take your kids along:
- If they’re old enough, they can ski with you.
- Drop them into daycare/ski school. Some daycares such as Skiwiland at Mt Hutt will take babies from three months old.
- Tag team with another adult. You look after the kids while they ski, then vice versa.
- If you’re a confident skier, strap them on. I’ve seen a number of parents backpacking their babies on the easier trails.
If you’re not ready to strap on the skis yet, helping the kids ski is a workout in itself. Trudging through snow, picking up the kids off the ground (multiple times, especially if they’re young) and walking up and down the beginners slope, is enough to get your calves and biceps burning.
If the thought of taking your kids to the mountain is overwhelming, have a read of our beginners guide to skiing with kids.
4. Playground Workout:
I don’t know about you, but going to the playground in winter is great for the kids; they’re all running around and keeping warm...but I’m freezing in the corner, watching. Lately, I’ve been taking the opportunity to take my workout to the playground. Multi-tasking for the win! The kids can play while I watch them, and I stay warm and knock something off my to-do list.
Warm ups consist of laps around the playground and then I grab my phone, log into my workout app and choose a 20 minute high intensity workout. I use the free Nike+ app or Kate Ivey Fitness. If you’re a little apprehensive about working out in front of others, do what I do and pop around to the other side of the playground and turn your back. We often pop down to the local school playground as there’s never anyone there. If the kids are up to it, finish off with some running races in the park. It’s far more fun to chase your kids than run shuttles by yourself.
With a little creativity, you can get out there and get active, even with kids in tow. So wrap up warm, breathe in that fresh winter air, and soak up those endorphins this winter!
This article was written by Jennifer Parkes from Backyard Travel Family. They provide practical resources to help you travel around New Zealand with ease. Their family specific articles provide detailed accounts of hikes, playgrounds, bike parks etc., all tested by their kids. You will find all the information you need to determine if that’s the best family adventure for you.