“Try this one exercise for winter sports”

…is not a real thing. But it gets our attention, doesn’t it?

It’s seasonal transition time, and in the publishing world, it’s seasonal article time. That means catchy headlines and content selected to make you think about the winter sports powerhouse you could be, and the skiis you need to buy, and the coat, and the goggles, and the plane tickets, etc etc. It’s part of a continuum of telling you to look at your life and start needing things, start being dissatisfied with yourself again. In a sense, this is two competing life forms: your existence vs. the existence of the need-want industry. Short reminder: put your needs first.

To paraphrase the excellent Beau Miles in his book The Backyard Adventurer, we live in a very contradictory time, where to show off our brains and health and cultural sophistication, we simultaneously want to eat exciting and highly delicious foods and at the same time look like individuals who in reality live a life where such food is beyond impossible.

Combine the powerful marketing forces around us with our reward-oriented brains…it’s always sad, funny, enraging, depressing, or a combination thereof. Let’s do one tiny thing today. Let’s talk about what actually IS ideal exercise for winter. (It’s the same as for summer, spring, and fall, btw.)

What do we know about winter? At a surface level: it’s cold, it might snow or sleet where you live, it’s darker for more of the time, you might struggle with seasonal depression from the shorter daylight hours, and there are plenty of places where it feels dumb to even go outside because nature is trying to kill you.

Go one level deeper: what’s a common factor in winter sports? Using the cold as a platform for movement. That’s it. A fair amount of winter sports involve sliding around: skiiing, sledding, ice skating. And getting around during winter when you’re not engaged in sports is involved in NOT sliding around. The common factor? Core control.

Your core is not, as you might think, your abs. It’s your butt (glutes), and your hips, and the muscles of your upper legs, your shoulders and your entire back. In most people, these are disconnected systems due to lack of movement. The common gym paradigm of single-muscle machines means that even gym goers have very poor core control. So how do you change that?

  1. You want exercises that challenge your core from every angle.
  2. You want to work with your core with alternating, one-sided, and two-sided weights.
  3. You want to do this all year. There is no benefit to only caring about your core some of the time.

My fave exercises (as my clients know) are ones that engage the body from top to bottom. They’re harder to learn for some, but they’re so valuable that it’s worth the effort. Here’s a short list:

  1. Dead bug.
  2. Bird dog.
  3. Side lifts.
  4. Turkish get up.

If you have very little time, this is a set of exercises that teach parts of your body how to work together. That’s a critical skill. Even if you can only do a few, they start to retrain your body and brain to coordinate movement. The common factor is to keep your core active and engaged throughout. I cover #1 and #2 in a post from early in 2021: beat the winter doldrums: work on your core. If you’re new, start there.

To wrap up: there is no winter fitness or summer fitness. There are some environmental differences in what’s available to you outdoors. That’s about it. But your essential fitness benefits every damn thing you do, every day, all the time, not just when you’re in a position to spend an eye-watering amount of money on a ski trip. Every person has the same basic need: a strong core. Get yours!