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Chill Out

By on January 1, 2009
RoadKing Mag

Stew Smith

The cold, dark winter months can really affect you. Mood changes, depression and weight gain are very common because people dole out the comfort foods and cut back on activities to cope with dreary, shorter days.

But those making an effort to keep healthy and fit should not change their focus due to the season — we all still need to exercise and eat properly year round. In fact, exercise helps you deal with the mood swings that often come with the season.

Most people who exercise in the winter either live in temperate climates or stay indoors to burn off the excess calories that can lead to weight gain. However, if you are one of the few people who can handle working out in the cold, be sure to properly layer your clothes for warmth and to avoid injury.

Here are some tips to help both warm- and cold-natured truckers make it through the winter:

Pace Yourself
Build up to exercising in the cold temperatures. It is difficult to transition any cardiovascular activity from a 60-70 degree climate to temperatures closer to 20-30 degrees. So, over the course of four to six weeks, do workouts outside as the weather changes. For instance, starting in October or November you were probably seeing colder weather of 40-50 degrees depending on your location. By December, if you continued to exercise outside, you might have gotten used to 30-40 degree weather. As with anything, pace yourself as the temperatures change, no matter how light your workout.

Keep Walking
Walking is one of the best ways to burn calories. You do not need to change clothes (maybe walking shoes if your feet hurt). Just add some layers of clothing on your head, torso and hands to stay warm. If you choose to walk outside, walk into the wind during the first part of your workout and let it “push” you back to the starting point. This will keep you a bit warmer, which is especially necessary if you have worked up a sweat. Also, try to walk in the heat of the day, such as early afternoon, to avoid sub-freezing temperatures, if possible.

On the Road
If your travels bring you into the more temperate Southern climates from time to time, take advantage of the location. Find a park or a high school track, pull out the dumbbells and do a full-body workout plan — especially if you are limited to good weather days to practice your routine. A few dumbbells in your truck can go a long way.

At Home
Join a gym or indoor pool for some activity when at home. Many towns have community center gyms and pools that do not require a membership, just a usage fee. Do some research where you reside or travel regularly.
Work out in the house too! Get a secondhand treadmill or stationary bike and enjoy some TV while working out. Even if you only exercise during commercials of a show, you will get 20 minutes in an hour of TV. Commercials are great for pushups, crunches, lower back exercises or dumbbell lifts.

Other Cold Weather Tips
If you choose to work out in below freezing weather, be careful with ice and snow when walking fast or running. Pay attention to wind chill warnings and double check that you have no exposed skin. Too many injuries occur just from carelessness in the ice and snow.

Lastly, know when to go indoors and warm up. Be aware of numbness in your hands and feet, slurred speech, uncontrollable shaking or shivering. These could signal the start of frostbite or hypothermia, which can be deadly if not caught in its early stages.

  The right footwear is critical to an injury-free workout. Good running shoes will offer plenty of support and shock absorption to protect you from tendonitis, shin splints and more.

For runners who weigh more than 200 pounds, a couple of brands stand out. Trucker/marathon runner Jeff Clark likes Asiacs gt1130s. “The Asiacs last about 450 miles,” Clark says. “When I feel a little pain in the knee, I buy a new pair and the pain goes away.”  

As a 200-plus pound runner myself, I prefer the Brooks Beast. You can get these expensive shoes for about 40 percent off, with  no shipping charges, at

Stay safe and stay fit during the cold months. Good luck and feel free to email me at

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