When it’s cold outside, the fire is crackling and Netflix calls, it can be really hard to get motivated to do a workout. However, I have a few tips up my sleeve to motivate you, so let me tell you why wintertime is my favourite time of year to exercise.
You don’t overheat.
I'm not a fan of exercising in the middle of summer. I know some 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 just provides motivation to move a little faster.
You can cover up.
After three children, let’s just say my body has been through a lot. 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!
Nikki C is wearing the 'Casual Hoodie' in slate and the 'Classic Maternity Leggings - Full Length' in black.
You get the best places without the crowds.
I’ll tell you below more about why I love hiking in winter, but playgrounds and indoor pools etc. are far less busy in the wintertime. While everyone else is hibernating inside, you can enjoy popular spots without all the people!
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, where it's common to have winter temperatures just above 0 degrees...and we 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.
The great thing about hiking is that you CAN 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 top tips for hiking with kids:
Get a baby carrier:
Nikki J is wearing the 'All Day Hooded Top' in grey and the 'Classic Maternity Leggings - Full Length' in black.
If you have a little one, a baby carrier is essential. There are a lot of great brands out there, so choose the best that works for you. Baby carriers are great if you aren’t going too far, or don’t have too much gear to take with you. There's not enough room to take much besides your car keys in most baby 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 with kids before, have a few shorter practice walks first, as once a baby is on board, this load can be a little heavy.
Top tips for keeping your baby warm:
- You can get rain covers for 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 mittens (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, and if you have one with a tie definitely use that...it's so annoying when hats keep falling off!
Take the right gear with you:
Weather can turn extremely fast, so check the weather forecast and dress appropriately.
This is my hiking checklist:
- Water (and extra if you're a breastfeeding mother to keep up that supply).
- Snacks/lunch (‘hangry’ children are not fun to walk with, and mothers, 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're motivated to get there!
- Layers: I always put a polypro or merino layer underneath, have long sleeve t-shirts, a jersey/warm layer and a 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...you've got to be prepared.
- Nappies and wipes.
- Change of clothes for the baby in case of nappy mishaps.
- Charged mobile (and don’t forget to tell someone where you're 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. Versatile!
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 beaches along the way, a flat trail that they say is great for kids always ends up being the worst option, in my opinion.
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...not much fun for the little ones.
If I choose a trail that is interesting...has some bush, climbs up hills or rocks, or has something to see at the end point, then my children can walk for around three to four hours. In all cases, these have been more difficult trails. Now that’s not to say you need to pick an advanced track first off and walk for four hours on your very first hike, but if you’re finding an easy flat trail is just not working, then don’t be discouraged - try a more varied track.
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 clothing for yourself as well, because when that cold sweat dries, you'll get cold! A thermos with a hot drink or soup is also so lovely to finish on, especially 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 me yet, the next best option is to use 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 wind, and combine that with cold temperatures...it can mean an unpleasant experience for everyone! So rug them up, pop them in a tow trailer, add 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)!
- Meet a friend at a cafe (because coffee makes everything better, and you can bribe your children with treats)!
- 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 when you don't even realise it! I don’t know about you, but before kids I never realised what a workout my body was getting with a day's skiing, but the last time I skied, I definitely activated muscles I hadn’t used in a very long time!
You have a couple of options when taking the kids skiing:
- If they’re old enough, they can ski with you.
- If they're not old enough, or experienced enough you can drop them into a daycare or a 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! Fun!
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 beginner's slope is enough to get your calves and biceps burning...trust me!
If the thought of taking your kids up the mountain is overwhelming, have a read of our beginner's guide to skiing with kids.
4. Playground Workout:
Nikki J is wearing the 'Smoothie Crop Bra' in confetti/white, the 'Free 'n' Active Tank' in lilac and the 'High Waisted Running Shorts.'
I find 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 go down to the local school playground as there’s never anyone there. If the kids are up for it, finish off with some running races in the park. It’s far more fun to chase your kids than running shuttles by yourself.
With a little creativity, you can get out and get active, even with the kids in tow. So wrap up warm in your finest Cadenshae gear, breathe in that fresh winter air, and soak up those endorphins this winter!
Written by Jennifer Parkes from Backyard Travel Family.