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Minnesota Muscle – Winter Edition

Something that many of you may not know about me is that I’m blessed, or cursed by some accounts, to call MinneSNOWta my home. Land of 10,000 fish-filled lakes, a Humphries who was fortunate enough to escape the Beverly Hillbilly tentacles of the Kardashian clan, and numerous heart-pumping, calorie roasting winter activities.

I’m a firm believer that era of obesity is nourished greatly by first being the era of doing things as fast as possible, with as little effort as possible. By incorporating more outdoor winter physical activities including chores, not only will you get a decent workout while getting things done, but you’ll also open yourself to the opportunity of seeing and feeling how your fitness progress has impacted your life in a positive way by making physical tasks easier.

Maybe shoveling even an inch of snow by hand used to have you on the brink of a heart attack, but now you’re rocking your house out in half the time, and then heading over to shovel for the old lady on the corner (Minnesota Super-Set!).

Below are the 4 winter activities that are great ways to get out and enjoy the winter wonderland. Hey, we all talk about leaving our frozen tundra just about every January, but then the snow melts and the Walleye start biting. Embrace activities for all seasons in the area you call home, and suddenly your menu of fitness options doubles.


Minnesota Muscle - Shoveling
The storm that “killed” the Metrodome roof.

Snow removal is viewed by many as a horribly inconvenient chore that’s better left to a plow service, or the $1,000.00 snow blower that’s so monumentally ginormous it has it’s own garage stall. But shoveling snow by hand is a great workout that makes you use your core and leg muscles for stabilization, while also hitting the muscles of the arms, back, and shoulders. I completely agree that there are some occasions when a snowblower is truly the better option, but is it really worth pulling out the behemoth for every little snow that mother nature throws your way?

Shoveling snow for a mere 30 minutes will leave your house looking fabulous and your spouse smiling, all while burning roughly 240 calories.

Important shoveling recommendations:


[list_item]Start with a little light stretching – Gets your blood moving and to helps prevent strains[/list_item]

[list_item]Clean snow off any cars parked on the driveway first – Sounds like a no brainier, but we all do dumb things[/list_item]

[list_item]Keep your back straight – Helps to prevent putting excessive strain on it[/list_item]

[list_item]Lift and push with your legs – Takes the weight of your back[/list_item]

[list_item]Drink plenty of water – Dehydration = BAD[/list_item]

[list_item]Try shoveling half right handed and half left handed – Helps improve coordination and inspires symmetrical muscle burn [/list_item]


[h4]Chopping Wood[/h4]

Build Muscle By Chopping Wood

Chopping Wood is a great winter cardio workout that helps you burn a decent amount of calories, while simultaneously providing your body with some serious muscle burn. An estimate provided by the American Council On Exercise says that a person can burn roughly 400 calories over the course of an hour just from shivering alone! For more on using temperature manipulation to promote weight loss, check out a past post called “Use Thermodynamics to Lose Fat?“.

Chopping wood provides a great way to get a killer core workout, but also hits your lower back, lats, shoulders, biceps, triceps, hamstrings, and quadriceps. The weight might not seem all that significant, but this simple and effective workout is great for boosting your muscle endurance. Chop a decent amount of wood, and you will definitely feel the burn within 24 to 48 hours after. How much wood can you chop?

For many Minnesotans, the axe wielding genes go back hundreds of years. FDJ - Norse Woman With Axe

Some of you out there have likely never chopped wood in your entire lives, and the whole notion sounds all too dangerous! While others of you may have chopped wood before, but you’ve silently known that you’ve always sucked at it. Well, have no fear!

One of my favorite sites of all time artofmanliness.com has a fabulous post appropriately called “How to Split Firewood”. In no time they’ll have you basking in the power that comes with showing that slab of hardwood who’s boss!

Chopping and stacking wood for an hour will incinerate roughly 500 calories, and give you a crackling fire to enjoy with a cold beer. Does it get better than that?

Remember what they say in The Red Green Show, “If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.”

An important disclaimer – Unlike shoveling I DO NOT recommend that you try and chop wood by cutting half right handed, and the other half left handed. Stick with your dominate hand and you’ll be less likely to knee cap yourself or chop right through your own foot.

That’s not to say that you have to limit yourself simply to chores in order to get a decent winter workout. There are plenty of other outdoor winter activities that aren’t laborious in the least, and still get the heart pumping.

[h4]Hockey/Ice Skating [/h4]

An Early Hockey MatchCory Taylor from the bands Slipknot and Stone Sour once said, “there’s nothing in Iowa except ice rinks and grave yards.” This statement rings pretty much true in Minnesota as well, especially during the 5 months of our annual winter hibernation.  If you asked the average Minnesotan if their state has a genuine love and true passion for a sport that sets them apart, thousands would respond “Hockey!” Hey, we haven’t had a stadium worthy football team since well before I was born, but that’s another rant completely.

Many people have an all out love affair with a sport known to many as “the fastest sport on earth”. Many Minnesotans go so far as to refer to Minnesota as “The State of Hockey”.  Canada and the United States each have over 500,000 registered players according to the International Hockey Federation, with thousands more packing rinks every winter for pure recreation and fun.

Playing hockey is a fun and exciting way to burn 600 calories an hour, and even skating at a slow pace will burn upwards of 400 calories an hour.

[h4]Cross-Country Skiing [/h4]

Build Muscle With Cross-Country Skiing
A Skiing Sami from Olaus Magnus

Cross-country skiing has been used as a mode of traveling over winter terrain since ancient times in the Scandinavian Peninsula, which is made up of several modern countries including Norway, Sweden, and much of Finland. The practice greatly assisted hunters in their ability to track and kill life sustaining game such as elk and deer.

Today cross-country skiing is still a great way to get out and enjoy the nature and wonderful scenery that often lies just a few miles off the beaten path, while getting an amazing total body workout. Think of all the cardio machines out there that mimic the movements of cross-country skiing like the Nordic Track (remember those?), and the countless other variations of elliptical machines on the market.

Skiing for an hour at a 4 mile/hour pace will burn roughly 645 calories, which is a great way to get some fresh air while staving off the winter fat layer that many of us know all too well.

Sound Off!

Minnesota is certainly not the only place in the world that gets bombarded with snow and ice for roughly half the year. What do you do to get your workout on during the hibernation months of winter? Feel free to leave your replies in the comments section below, or say whatever frosts your cake!

Much love!


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