Bobsleds zooming down icy slopes, crazy halfpipe stunts and incredible airborne triple axels. The excitement of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea is bound to inspire Olympic daydreams. Whatever your game, you don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to enjoy the health benefits, fun and camaraderie of winter sports. Let the competition in PyeongChang motivate you to try out a new cold weather activity.
Here are a few suggestions to get you up and at it:
Figure skating, with its combination of athleticism and artistry, is a perennial Olympic favorite. Fortunately, athletes of all skill levels can enjoy ice skating. If you are looking for a fun family activity and a great aerobic workout, head out to your local indoor rink or frozen pond for a twirl on the ice. For those trying to shed a few pounds, ice skating is a terrific choice for a calorie-burning cardiovascular workout. According to Harvard Medical School, a 155-pound person will burn about 260 calories in 30 minutes of ice skating, more or less depending upon your weight and intensity level.
Ice skating strengthens the leg muscles, working the gluteals, adductors and abductors, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and ankles. You’ll be working to maintain your balance, all the while working out your core and strengthening the abdominals. You can learn to skate at any age—it’s a lifetime activity not limited to the young. As a weight-bearing exercise, ice skating increases bone density, and improves balance and flexibility, all significant health benefits as we age.
Snow Tubing and Sledding
Few sports can match the sheer excitement of luge: rocketing feet first down an icy slope (no brakes!) at speeds that can reach over 80 miles per hour. Seek out a few downhill thrills of your own with a day of sledding or snow tubing. These are the perfect winter activities for the novice athlete who may lack the balance and coordination needed for downhill skiing or snowboarding. Yes, you’ll be sitting—but that drag back up the hill is just what the doctor ordered: an aerobic workout and leg-strengthener.
Cross-country (aka Nordic) skiiers at PyeongChang 2018 will compete in 12 different events, from a 30 kilometer skiathlon to the team relays and the short distance sprints. The rest of us will want to try a trendy new alternative to Nordic skiing: “fat biking,” also known as “snow biking.”
Resembling a mountain bike, fat bikes have wider (4-5 inch) bike tires with deep grooves and low pressure, well-suited for snowy treks. The popular fat bikes have become widely available for rent at bike shops and ski shops. You’ll enjoy the gorgeous winter landscape while getting a great lower body workout minus the stress on your knees. You’ll even work your abs, obliques and lower back in maintaining balance.
The competition on the ice is sure to be a highlight of PyeongChang 2018. The U.S. will be fielding both men’s and women’s teams. Hockey’s multiple movement patterns provide a great lower body workout, exercising the glutes, quads and hamstrings. The core muscles are strengthened in maintaining balance, and the frequent twisting of the torso works the obliques.
Enjoy the sport and the same great core-strengthening workout with a game of broomball. With rules similar to ice hockey, broomball is played on the ice but with a six-inch ball, broom-shaped stick and rubber-soled sneakers. Invented in Minnesota in the 1930s, broomball is a popular choice for college intramurals and in an increasing number of broomball recreational leagues.