I’ve lived my entire life in a four season climate. I don’t know what life would be like without snow in the winter, or the leaves turning bright colors in autumn. This may be something I’ve taken for granted.
But as the seasons change, inevitably so does my motivation for outdoor activity. I’ve never been the die-hard runner that is outdoors no matter the temperature or weather. The scorching summer heat limits my running to the early hours of the morning, and the snow and ice usually limit how much time I spend running through the winter.
I used to be somewhat frustrated by the fact that I felt I wasn’t able to be consistent year-round as a runner. As my role as a parent has changed, I’ve learned to adapt to seasonal exercise, and I’ve even come to enjoy it.
If you live in a region with dramatic climate changes based on the time of year, see if you can use it to your advantage for extra motivation. What activities are best suited for certain times of the year?
Personally, I like spending as much time outdoors as possible. This isn’t always practical or convenient, but there are some activities that are better suited for different seasons.
Something to keep in mind is that you are more likely to be consistently active if 1) it requires minimal effort to get ready for, and 2) if it doesn’t require a location change to get started. In short, can you step out your front door or roll out of bed and start?
More on that in a minute.
For now, here are some seasonal ideas for staying active.
Fall (33 – 70 ℉)
There’s a brief window here in the midwest where the summer heat lifts and the outdoor temperatures become serene. Autumn is my absolute favorite season of the year. Cooler weather without the humidity of spring. A crisp coolness in the air. The smells and sounds of fall.
Here are some of the things I find myself doing in the fall and some ideas for you to try.
- Outdoor Running
- Hiking Trails / Scenic walks
- Fall Clean Up / Raking leaves, cleaning gutters, weeding
- Outdoor Rec soccer league
Winter (Below 32 ℉)
If you live in a part of the world that has a winter season (with snow), it can be a challenge to get outdoors through those colder months. Here in Missouri, we don’t get enough snow to truly enjoy winter sports like cross country skiing or snowshoeing, but we still get the colder temperatures. Winter does mean the chance to be in the woods without excessive bugs, so things like hiking and trail running are more desirable despite the colder temps.
Here are a few outdoor as well as indoor activities I lean toward through the colder months of the year.
- Trail Running
- Indoor Swim Groups
- Indoor Spin Groups
- Indoor Pickleball (all the rage in the midwest right now)
- Indoor rec leagues (basketball, soccer, etc.)
- Mountain Biking
Spring (33 – 70 ℉)
For me, spring is the second hardest season to be outdoors. The temperature is usually pretty good, but I am constantly dodging rain. As long as you are okay with the possibility of getting wet, spring is wonderful. As a family, we return to the outdoors and spend a lot of time at parks or walking trails.
- Walks through flowering parks or gardens
- Outdoor Running
- Outdoor Cycling
- Indoor Swimming
- Outdoor adult rec leagues (soccer, softball, kickball etc.)
- Disc Golf
Summer (Above 70 ℉)
The long summer days are all about finding pools and parks to play at until the sun goes down. I shift from structured workouts to more family friendly activities. Swimming with our boys at the local pool, running to a nearby playground with one or two in the stroller, bike rides and picnics — summer weather is for fun.
- Outdoor Cycling
- Outdoor Swimming / Pool or Lake
- Jogging Stroller
- Sand Volleyball league
- Stand up Paddle Boarding
- Disc Golf
- Outdoor adult rec leagues (soccer, softball, baseball, kickball)
- Rowing, Kayaking, Canoeing
Better with Friends
One of the best things I’ve found to get me moving is something (anything) with a friend. Whether it’s going for a walk, playing pickleball at a local court, signing up for a group workout, etc. Whatever it is, doing it with a friend makes it 1,000x better.
Any sort of activity that involves other people is going to be much more motivating to show up and complete the workout instead of doing something by yourself. And there’s a good chance you’ll make a new friend in the process.
Another great way to stay active is committing to something that requires a level of physical exertion. Maybe it’s doing a landscaping project, spreading mulch or raking leaves. Sign up to help maintain or cut in new trails with a local group. Splitting wood or shoveling snow are also great workouts.
A few times a year I sign up to help pace runners for local races here in town. As the pacer, I’m on the hook for showing up ready to get folks across the finish line at a target pace. Talk about motivation.
Whether or not these are structured workouts, finding ways to move and stay active is good for the body and the mind. I make it a point to try to sweat a little every day. It doesn’t have to be long and overly difficult, just enough to get my body moving.
There’s no faster way to interrupt a habit of working out than travel. Whether for work or leisure, it can be a challenge to be active on the road.
Here are a couple tips for staying active traveling.
- Plan ahead and find a local meetup. Whether it’s a walking trail, group workout, or running group, you can probably find something.
- Define your minimum basic definition of staying active. It could be as simple as a 10-minute walk or something easy that encourages you to move for a few minutes per day.
- You could also create a default workout you can do anywhere. Hotel room, in-between meetings, 15 minutes before bed. This is the workout or activity you pull out when you’re in a pinch.
Make it Easy
At the end of the day, make staying active easy. No matter the weather or what may be going on in your life, we can find creative ways to keep our body moving. A short walk, a game of pick-up basketball, a trip to the pool — it doesn’t have to be a structured workout, just look for ways to move.
A final thought. Do whatever it takes to make the final step as easy as possible. Set your clothes out the night before (especially useful when bundling up in the dark), put together a dedicated swim bag, make a checklist of what you need when heading to the lake to paddle board. I’ve found each of these immensely helpful when it comes to staying active amidst a busy life.
Through all of it, do something that’s fun to you. It doesn’t have to look like what everyone else does, but if you can make staying active fun, you’ll go a long way.