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Work out, even in winter

DETROIT - Winter weather is here. As if anyone needed to tell you that, right? And with it comes the bracing cold and the "I-don't-want-to-go-outside-or-to-the-gym" feeling that has derailed many a well-intentioned exerciser.

No more. There are plenty of reasons to start up or keep up a fitness routine heading into the coldest, darkest season.

No. 1 could be: It won't last forever. Soon enough it'll be spring and you'll be wishing you were in better shape to enjoy the great outdoors.

Or maybe you're headed to sunnier, warmer locales and want to be in top shape once you shed the layers of clothes you need up here but won't need there.

The best reason could be that exercise is a great way to beat the winter blues.

Whether you are a cold-weather wimp looking to become a winter warrior by working out outdoors, or you're ready to start a challenging indoor workout, here is some advice from local experts on putting together a fitness plan you can stick to.

Workouts at the gym

Find the right motivation. People who exercise to feel better and improve their quality of life are more likely to stick with it than those who simply want to look better, says Rasheed Lee, a fitness trainer who works at area gyms, including Powerhouse in West Bloomfield, Mich.

Take a fitness class or sign up for a recreation league. "Group fitness classes are fun and a lot of times are distracting," says Lee. "You don't even know you're working out until it's all over - or the next day."

Playing basketball or another indoor sport with a rec league also is a fun, social way to exercise and could prompt you to work out more the rest of the week, too.

Cross-train. If you have a favorite fitness activity - such as running, cycling, golfing - use the winter to work out in a way that complements that activity. Lee says he's taken up yoga - one of the hottest fitness trends around - as a way to balance the stress on his body from weight lifting. Yoga and other disciplines like Pilates are also good complements to activities like running and cycling.

Workouts at home

Make it do-able. If 30 minutes, three days a week, is all you can do, start there. Don't put unrealistic expectations on the amount of time you'll be able to put into working out. You can also break down the time into three segments of 10 minutes and still get the same benefit.

Commit to it. Make a date with yourself and then keep it.

Add variety. "Boredom is the biggest enemy in fitness," says Doug Chapman, owner of HyperFit USA in Ann Arbor, where participants in his boot camp-style workout sessions never know what's going to be thrown at them each class.

For an at-home equivalent, Chapman suggests using FitDeck cards ($18.95, www.fitdeck.com). Each card in the deck - developed by Phil Black, a former Navy SEAL instructor - shows a different no-equipment-necessary exercise. There's a similar product aimed at women called Sane Fitness ($24.95, www.sanefit.com, some equipment required).

Chapman recommends randomly pulling out three to five cards and doing three sets of the exercises on them (each has a suggested number of repetitions). Doing the sets with little time in between helps you get in a good cardio and strength-training workout at the same time.

Outdoor workouts

Get the right gear. Technology is making it harder for Mother Nature to hamper outdoor exercisers. High-tech fabrics that heat up when wet or wick sweat away from your body mean that you can wear fewer clothes but actually stay warmer throughout your workout.

Clothes come in all price ranges. Target and Kohl's carry moderately priced workout apparel: some of the clothes in the C9 by Champion line are at Target; the Russell Athletic line is carried at Kohl's and J.C. Penney. Area running stores carry pricier options, like Mizuno's line of Breath Thermo products, made with a material that heats up when exposed to moisture.

Another popular warming trend is wool apparel.

If you're worried about slipping on wet or icy ground you can pick up grips that attach to your shoes, like the Yaktrax Pro traction device.

Sign up for a group. Runners are notorious for sticking it out through all kinds of weather, so why not join with them?

Have a backup plan. On days when the weather is absolutely miserable and you can't exercise outdoors, make sure you've got an alternative (skipping one day can too easily turn into two, three ... you get the idea), whether it's hitting the treadmill or stationary bike, heading to a gym or doing a workout to a video or DVD. Or check out an online service like demandFitness, www.demandfitness.com, which provides workout classes over the Internet.

McClatchy Newspapers

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