December 15, 2023

Ultimate Chicago Winter Workout Guide to Stay Active

By Rahul Malpe
Ultimate Chicago Winter Workout Guide to Stay Active

Over its eight seasons, 'Game of Thrones' famously warned us with the phrase 'Winter is coming.'  In our real world, unlike the unpredictable winters of Westeros, winter reliably arrives each year.

But as the temperatures drop, It can be tempting to just turn the heater on and snuggle up under your blankets while putting your fitness goals off until spring.

Yet, what if you could embrace this cold season and use it to keep up with your fitness journey?

In this article, we aim to help everyone stay fit during winter, regardless of your preferred workout environment or fitness level. 

Whether you're someone who loves the comfort of indoor exercises, thrives in the brisk outdoor air, frequents the gym, or enjoys a good run, we've got you covered. 

So, let's get started and explore the many ways you can keep active and energized in the colder months of Chicago!

Why Is It Harder to Workout in Winter?

Why does the cold make it harder to do your usual fitness routine in comparison to summer? Turns out there are tons of reasons behind this:

Increased Cardiovascular Strain

In cold weather, your heart has to work harder to maintain body heat, which can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. [1]

The body responds to cold by constricting blood vessels, especially those near the skin's surface, to reduce heat loss. [2]

This vasoconstriction can increase resistance to blood flow, further adding to the workload on the heart.

Cold air can also impact the respiratory system, making breathing feel more difficult, especially for those with conditions like asthma. [3]

This can affect your ability to perform aerobic exercises efficiently.

Muscle Tightness and Reduced Function

The vasoconstriction that occurs in cold weather also reduces blood flow to the muscles. [4]

Less blood flow means muscles receive less oxygen and nutrients, which can lead to muscle tightness and reduced function. [5] [6]

Stiff, cold muscles are more prone to injuries like strains and sprains. This is why a proper warm-up becomes even more critical in winter. [7]

Cold muscles are less efficient, which means your strength and endurance might be reduced, and movements may feel more challenging.

Slower Nerve Impulses and Reduced Dexterity

Cold temperatures can slow down nerve impulses. [8]

This can affect your reaction time, agility, and coordination, making it harder to perform exercises that require quick or precise movements.

The cold can also affect dexterity in the fingers and toes, making it difficult to perform exercises that require fine motor skills, such as gripping weights or adjusting fitness equipment. [9] [10]

Cold weather can also exacerbate joint pain and stiffness, particularly in people with joint-related conditions like arthritis. [11] [12]

This discomfort can hinder your ability to perform certain exercises effectively.

Higher Caloric Burn and Faster Fatigue

As the temperatures drop, your body has to work harder to maintain its core temperature. 

This increased effort results in a higher caloric burn, as your body uses more energy for heat production. [13]

Shivering, an involuntary muscle contraction to generate heat, also consumes calories, contributing to a higher caloric burn.

Because your body is using more energy to keep warm, there may be less energy available for the workout itself. 

This can lead to faster fatigue during exercise, making it feel more challenging to complete your workout routine.

The additional energy demands, combined with other winter-related challenges, can affect overall stamina and athletic performance, making workouts feel more taxing than they would in warmer conditions.

Dehydration Risks

When it is cold, you may not realize how much you are sweating, especially if the sweat evaporates quickly or is absorbed by layers of clothing. 

This can lead to underestimating the amount of fluid lost during exercise.

Studies show that exposure to cold temperatures during moderate-intensity exercise can diminish thirst by 40%, leading to decreased fluid intake and an increased risk of dehydration. [14]

You lose more water through respiratory fluid loss in cold weather, as the body humidifies and warms the dry, cold air you breathe in.

That's why It's crucial to keep drinking water during winter workouts consciously, even if you don't feel as thirsty, to avoid dehydration and its impact on performance and recovery.

How to Workout in the Winter? - Preparation Tips

The following tips must be kept in mind before exercising in freezing temperatures.

Dress Appropriately for the Cold

The foundation of dressing for cold weather workouts is layering. This allows you to manage your body temperature effectively. 

Start with a snug base layer made from moisture-wicking material to keep sweat away from your skin, reducing the risk of getting chilled. 

Your second layer should provide insulation; materials like fleece are ideal for trapping heat. 

The outermost layer should protect you from wind and moisture – look for windproof and waterproof materials.

Since the body prioritizes keeping your core warm, extremities like fingers, toes, and ears are more vulnerable to cold. 

Wear a hat or headband to cover your ears, gloves or mittens for your hands, and thermal socks for your feet.

Be Visible For Safety

In winter, you may often find yourself in low-light conditions. 

Wearing reflective clothing makes you more visible to others, particularly motorists. 

This is especially important if you are running or cycling near traffic.

If you plan to bike early in the morning or late in the evening, it's really important to have lights on your bike. 

Make sure you have a white light on the front and a red light on the back. This helps you see where you're going and lets others see you too.

Even if you're running, a headlamp or small flashlights can increase your visibility.

Moisturize and Shield Your Skin

Cold, dry air can strip moisture from your skin. Apply a thick, hydrating moisturizer to all exposed skin areas before going out. This helps to prevent dryness and cracking. [15]

For areas like your face that are exposed to cold wind, consider using a barrier cream or balm. 

This creates a protective layer against harsh conditions, reducing the risk of windburn and frostbite.

The winter sun, especially when reflecting off snow, can be damaging to your skin. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to any exposed skin areas.

Warm Up Thoroughly Before Exercising

Cold muscles are more prone to injury. [16]

A thorough warm-up longer than what you might do in warmer conditions helps increase blood flow and muscle temperature, reducing the risk of strains and sprains. [17]

Focus on dynamic stretches that mimic the movements of your workout. This prepares your muscles specifically for the activity you’re about to do.

If it's extremely cold outside, consider starting your warm-up indoors to raise your body temperature before heading out.

Stay Hydrated

Even in cold weather, your body loses water through sweat and the simple act of breathing. 

Since you might not feel as thirsty in cooler temperatures, there's a risk of unintentional dehydration.

You must maintain regular fluid intake before, during, and after your workout. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink water. Instead, adopt a proactive approach by hydrating throughout the day.

Pay attention to signs of dehydration, which can include fatigue, dizziness, and decreased performance. 

The color of your urine is a good indicator – aim for a light, straw color.

Adjust Your Breathing

Cold air can be dry and harsh on your respiratory system. [18]

Breathing through your mouth can cause the cold air to trigger a bronchial response, leading to coughing or wheezing.

Try to breathe through your nose as much as possible. Nasal breathing warms and humidifies the air before it reaches your lungs, reducing the shock of cold air.

In very cold conditions, consider wearing a scarf or mask over your mouth. 

This can help warm the air before it's inhaled, making breathing more comfortable and reducing the risk of respiratory irritation.

Make the Most of the Midday Sun

If possible, schedule your workouts for the middle of the day when temperatures are milder, and there’s more sunlight. 

Besides the warmth, the sunlight may help improve your mood and vitamin D levels. [19] [20]

Find a Workout Buddy or Join a Group

Having a workout partner or being part of a group can greatly enhance your motivation and commitment to regular exercise, especially on cold, dark days when it's tempting to skip your workout.

Exercising with others can also be safer, particularly for activities like running or cycling on icy roads or trails. 

Besides, the social aspect can make your workouts more enjoyable and something to look forward to.

A workout buddy or group provides a sense of accountability. Knowing others are counting on you can be a powerful motivator. 

Plus, you can support each other through challenging workouts and share tips and advice.

Workouts to Do Indoors During Winter

For all of you who wish to keep warm and cozy during the winter, here are some activities you can participate in.


Boxing is an excellent cardio workout, offering a high-intensity, full-body exercise. It combines aerobic and anaerobic activity, improving overall cardiovascular health.

Regular boxing sessions can significantly enhance upper body strength, especially in the arms, chest, and core. 

It also involves lower body movements, providing a comprehensive workout.

Boxing is known for its stress-relieving benefits, as the physical act of hitting can be a powerful outlet for releasing tension.

Where in Chicago:

TITLE Boxing Club - 2417 N Clark Street Chicago, IL. 60614

Mayweather Boxing + Fitness  - 219 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654,

Knuckleheads Boxing - 633 S Plymouth Ct, Chicago, IL 60605

Join a Spin Class

Spin classes provide an excellent cardiovascular workout without the need for outdoor cycling, which can be challenging in winter.

The group setting of a spin class can be motivating, especially during the colder months when it's harder to stay active.

Where in Chicago:

Flywheel -  1653 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60614

SoulCycle - 111 W Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60601

You can also check out our detailed guide on the top spin classes in Chicago by clicking here.

Dive into Indoor Swimming

Indoor pools offer a consistent and controlled environment, ideal for swimming regardless of outdoor weather conditions.

It's gentle on the joints, making it a great option for those looking for a low-impact exercise.

Swimming works for various muscle groups and is excellent for building endurance and strength.

Where in Chicago:

Chicago Park District Pools - 5610 W. Lake St. Chicago, IL 60644

East Bank Club - 500 N Kingsbury St, Chicago, IL 60654, United States

Try Indoor Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is a comprehensive workout that strengthens multiple muscle groups, including arms, legs, and core.

It requires problem-solving and strategy. This means you have to be both physically and mentally engaged while doing it.

Where in Chicago:

Brooklyn Boulders Chicago - 100 S Morgan St, Chicago, IL 60607

First Ascent Climbing - Avondale 3516 N Spaulding Ave Chicago, IL 60618

Experience Barre Workouts

Barre workouts blend ballet, Pilates, and yoga, and are considered low-impact. This makes them perfect for indoor winter workouts, especially for those seeking to avoid strain on joints.

These workouts focus on small, isometric movements that effectively tone and strengthen muscles, while also improving flexibility - a great way to combat the stiffness that can come with colder weather.

Where in Chicago:

The Barre Code - 435 N. Lasalle Blvd. Chicago, IL 60564

Pure Barre: 1 East Huron Street Chicago, IL 60611

Enroll in a Boot Camp

Boot camps offer a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) approach, which is excellent for burning calories and building strength – a necessity for staying active in the winter.

The group setting of a boot camp can provide the motivation and accountability that is often lacking during the winter months.

Boot camps typically involve a mix of cardio, strength, and agility training, keeping workouts interesting and challenging.

Where in Chicago:

Fit Body Boot Camp - 625 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60610

Fit Results South Loop - 731 S Plymouth Ct, Chicago, IL 60605

If you are unsure about what to expect from a HIIT class. Read this guide here.

Strengthen Your Core with Pilates

Pilates focuses on strengthening the core muscles, which is crucial for overall body strength and can help reduce the risk of winter-related injuries.

With many people less active in the winter, Pilates may help counteract this by improving posture and balance.

Pilates is also said to enhance muscle tone and flexibility, which can be particularly beneficial during the colder months when muscles are generally tighter.

Where in Chicago:

Studio 8 Pilates - 3656 N Lincoln Ave F, Chicago, IL 60613

Club Pilates - 907 W Madison St Chicago, IL 60607

Bounce Back with Trampoline Fitness

While this is not for everyone. Jumping on a trampoline can be an enjoyable and energetic way to exercise, providing a much-needed mood boost during the dreary winter months.

This form of exercise is great for improving heart health and stamina, with the added benefit of being low-impact.

Where in Chicago:

Kettlebell Workouts

Kettlebell exercises work for multiple muscle groups at once, providing a comprehensive workout that's ideal for indoor winter exercise.

These workouts combine strength training with cardiovascular endurance, offering a time-efficient workout perfect for cold days.

Where in Chicago:


Pickleball is a low-impact sport, making it accessible for people of all ages and fitness levels and a great option for those looking for joint-friendly activities in winter.

Pickleball is typically played in doubles, promoting social interaction and camaraderie, which can be especially valuable during the colder, more isolated months.

Where in Chicago:

Shoot Hoops Indoors

Basketball involves running, jumping, and quick lateral movements, providing a full-body workout that's perfect for staying in shape during winter.

Regularly playing basketball may improve your hand-eye coordination and balance.

The team aspect of basketball also fosters communication and strategic thinking, which can provide good mental stimulation to the brain.

Where in Chicago:

Play Indoor Soccer

Soccer like basketball is a team sport that promotes social interaction, teamwork, and communication, which can be particularly advantageous during winter when people are less likely to socialize outdoors.

It also can be an excellent cardiovascular workout, helping to maintain fitness levels during the cold season.

Where in Chicago:

Workouts to Do Outdoors During Winter

Chicago looks beautiful in winter, and it's a great place for outdoor exercise. Here are some of the best outdoor workouts to try in Chicago when it's cold.

Running Along the Lakefront Trail

The Lakefront Trail in Chicago offers an 18-mile path along the shore of Lake Michigan. The trail provides stunning views of the lake and the city skyline, offering a picturesque backdrop for your run.

Running in winter along the Lakefront Trail can be more challenging due to cold temperatures and potential icy patches. 

The experience of running against the cold wind can also be extra challenging and help build mental resilience.

Outdoor running, especially in such a scenic environment, can greatly boost your mood and mental health, countering the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that is common in winter.

To find out more about running trails in Chicago. You can check out this guide here.

Cross-Country Skiing in Local Parks

In Chicago, places like Northerly Island and the Cook County Forest Preserves offer cross-country skiing opportunities when there's enough snow. 

These locations provide a natural, serene setting that's perfect for this sport.

Cross-country skiing is an excellent full-body workout, engaging the legs, arms, and core. It's particularly effective for building endurance and cardiovascular fitness.

This activity is suitable for a range of skill levels, from beginners to advanced skiers. It's a great way to enjoy the outdoors and stay active in the winter.

You'll need skis, poles, and appropriate winter clothing. Some locations offer equipment rentals, making it easy for beginners to give it a try.


Snowshoeing is walking in the snow using special shoes that distribute your weight over a larger area. This prevents you from sinking too deeply into the snow, making it easier to walk.

Chicago’s forest preserves and parks, like the Morton Arboretum and the Palos Trail System, are popular spots for snowshoeing.

It's a low-impact, high-calorie-burning exercise that’s great for all fitness levels. Snowshoeing can strengthen your leg muscles and improve balance and coordination.

It's also a fantastic way to experience the tranquil beauty of Chicago’s natural landscapes in winter.

Outdoor Yoga in the Snow

Practicing yoga in the snow offers a unique and refreshing experience. The cold environment can enhance your focus and breath control, integral elements of yoga practice.

The serene and pristine snow-covered setting can have a calming effect, promoting mental clarity and reducing stress.

Dressing in layers is key. Also, using a thicker yoga mat or a blanket is a must so that you are properly insulated from the cold ground.

Ice Skating

Chicago has several outdoor ice skating rinks that become popular in the winter, such as the Millennium Park rink and the Maggie Daley Park Skating Ribbon. These rinks offer picturesque settings amidst the cityscape.

Ice skating is an excellent cardiovascular exercise that also improves balance, coordination, and muscle strength, particularly in the legs and core.

It's a fun and accessible winter activity for all ages, making it a fun way to socialize and stay active during the colder months.

For those new to ice skating, many rinks offer lessons and skate rentals, so getting started is easy.


Curling is a unique team sport that involves sliding stones on a sheet of ice towards a target area. It's as much a strategic, skill-based game as it is a social one.

While it may seem leisurely, curling requires precision, strategy, and some level of physical fitness, particularly in the legs and core.

This sport is accessible to a wide range of ages and physical abilities, making it an inclusive winter activity.

Places like the Chicago Curling Club offer facilities to try out curling. These clubs often provide beginner classes and open sessions.

Fat Tire Biking

Fat tire bikes, with their wide, durable tires, are designed to handle snowy and icy trails, making them perfect for winter cycling.

In Chicago, you can take these bikes on various trails that might be inaccessible to regular bikes in winter, such as snow-covered paths in local parks or along the Lakefront Trail.

Fat tire biking provides a vigorous workout, especially when navigating through snow, which requires more effort and thus burns more calories.

It offers a unique way to explore the city’s winter landscapes, whether it's urban settings or more natural environments.

Home Workout Alternatives During the Winter

Don't want to go out in the cold? That's okay! Here, we'll tell you about fun and easy exercises you can do at home during winter. 

Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight exercises are incredibly versatile and can be performed anywhere, requiring no equipment. This makes them perfect for home workouts.

Common bodyweight exercises include push-ups, squats, lunges, planks, and burpees. 

These exercises target various muscle groups and can be modified to suit different fitness levels.

You can create a full-body workout routine by combining different bodyweight exercises.

For instance, a circuit of push-ups, squats, and planks can provide a balanced workout.

These exercises improve strength, endurance, and flexibility. They also enhance body awareness and can contribute to better posture and overall body alignment.

To increase the challenge, you can modify these exercises to increase their intensity, such as doing single-leg squats or incline push-ups.

Yoga and Pilates at Home

Both yoga and Pilates are excellent for improving flexibility, balance, and core strength. 

They are particularly beneficial for counteracting the stiffness that can come from being indoors more during the winter.

These practices also offer mental health benefits, such as stress reduction and improved mindfulness, which are crucial during the shorter, darker days of winter.

Many online platforms and apps provide yoga and Pilates classes for all levels. 

These include guided sessions ranging from gentle, restorative practices to more challenging power yoga or Pilates workouts.

While minimal equipment is needed, a yoga mat, and perhaps a few props like blocks or a Pilates ring, can enhance your practice.

Both yoga and Pilates can be adapted to your fitness level and any space constraints, making them ideal for a home workout.

Cardio Workouts Indoors

Indoor cardio workouts can include a variety of activities such as jumping jacks, high knees, butt kicks, mountain climbers, and burpees. 

These exercises increase your heart rate, making them effective for cardiovascular health.

Creating a circuit with different cardio exercises can keep the workout interesting and challenging. 

For example, alternating between different exercises every minute for a 20-30-minute session provides a comprehensive cardio workout.

If you have limited space, using small equipment like jump ropes or a step platform can add intensity to your cardio workouts.

Also, we have a great article about the Prison Workout. It's a simple way to exercise using just your body, no special gear is needed. It's inspired by how people work out in prison with limited space.

To find out more about this workout, read our article here.

We also have a YouTube video that shows you how to do it.

Strength Training with Limited Equipment

As with cardio, bodyweight exercises can be effective for strength training. Exercises like push-ups, squats, lunges, and tricep dips are excellent for building strength.

Resistance bands are versatile, space-saving equipment that can enhance your strength training routine. 

They can be used for a variety of exercises that target different muscle groups.

In the absence of traditional weights, household items like water bottles, cans, or a backpack filled with books can be used as makeshift weights.

Mind-Body Wellness Activities

Engaging in meditation or mindfulness practices can be particularly helpful for mental health during winter. 

These practices help reduce stress, improve focus, and enhance overall well-being.

Simple breathing exercises, like diaphragmatic breathing or alternate nostril breathing, can be performed to reduce anxiety and improve lung function.

These are gentle forms of martial arts focusing on slow, deliberate movements and deep breathing. 

They can be practiced indoors and are helpful for balance, flexibility, and stress reduction.

Our Winter Workout Gear List

Browse the Best of Winter: Our Top Picks for the Season

Below are some of the winter essentials that you may need when you are exercising out in the cold.

We've also carefully selected an array of winter essentials tailored for every part of your body.

Essential Winter Head Care Selection

Thermal Beanie

Retains heat, especially important for the head and ears.

Smartwool Merino Beanie

Smart Wool Merino Beanie

$25 on Amazon

Tough Headwear Helmet Liner Skull Cap Beanie

$12 on Amazon

Arc'teryx Rho Lightweight Wool Toque

$40 on Amazon

Moisture-Wicking Running Caps

Keeps sweat away from eyes and face.

Nike AeroBill Tailwind Cap

$30 on Amazon

On Lightweight Cap

$45 on On Running

Brooks Unisex Base Hat

$32 on Amazon

Premier Winter Eye Protection

UV-Protective Sports Sunglasses

Protect eyes from UV rays, especially in snowy conditions.

RIVBOS Polarized UV Sunglasses

$20 on Amazon

Tifosi Tyrant 2.0 Polarized Wrap Sunglasses

$74 on Amazon

Oakley Gascan Sunglasses

$155 on Amazon

Anti-Fog + Snow Goggles

Prevent fogging, ensuring clear vision in extreme weather conditions.


$140 on Amazon

SMITH I/O MAG Goggles with ChromaPop Lens

$265 on Amazon

Anon mens M4 Goggle

$320 on Amazon

Essential Winter Neck Care Selection

Neck Gaiter or Buff

Provides warmth and can be adjusted to cover the lower face.

NovForth Winter Neck Warmer

$16 on Amazon

Original Turtle Fur Fleece

$18 on Amazon

Carhartt Men's Fleece Neck Gaiter

$25 on Amazon

Essential Winter Outerwear

Insulated, Breathable Jacket

Essential for core warmth and allows sweat to escape.

Little Donkey Andy Men's Insulated Running Jacket

$50 on Amazon

INBIKE Women's Cycling Jacket

$60 on Amazon

Helly Hansen Men's Waterproof Dubliner

$175 on Amazon

Essential Winter Inner wear

Moisture-Wicking Base Layer

Draws sweat away from the body and keeps you warm.

Rocky Thermal Underwear

$26 on Amazon

Under Armour HeatGear Long-Sleeve T-Shirt

$25 on Amazon

Thermal Running Tights or Pants

Warm and flexible for keeping lower body warmth and wick moisture.

Under Armour Men's HeatGear Leggings

$25 on Amazon

BALEAF Women's Fleece Lined Leggings

$33 on Amazon

Essential Winter Hand Protection

Thermal Arm Sleeves

Extra warmth for arms without restricting movement.

New Balance Unisex Outdoor Sports Compression Arm Sleeves

$17 on Amazon

ROCKBROS Thermal Arm Warmer

$20 on Amazon

Insulated Touchscreen Gloves

Protects hands from cold weather conditions and allows device use without removing gloves.

New Balance Lightweight Touchscreen Warm Running Gloves

$18 on Amazon

Nike Knit Tech and Grip Training Gloves 2.0

$26 on Amazon

Nike Adult Thermal Running Gloves

$40 on Amazon

Essential Winter Lower Body Selection

Wind-Resistant Track Pants

Protects against wind chill.

MELOO Women's Hiking Cargo Joggers

$25 on Amazon

Nike Men's Therma Tapered Running Pants

$70 on Amazon

HUK Women's Journey, Performance Quick-Drying Pants

$77 on Amazon

Essential Winter Foot Protection

Wool or Synthetic Blend Socks

Keeps feet warm and dry.

Nike AeroBill Tailwind Cap

$30 on Amazon

Nike AeroBill Tailwind Cap

$30 on Amazon

Nike AeroBill Tailwind Cap

$30 on Amazon

Essential Winter Shoe Collection

Water-Resistant Running Shoes

Ensures dryness and traction in wet conditions.

80% Merino Wool Socks

$17 on Amazon

adidas Men's Athletic Cushioned Crew Socks

$20 on Amazon

Hylaea Merino Wool Ski Socks

$31 on Amazon

Essentials Winter Backpack Selection

Lightweight Backpack with Hydration System

For hydration without heavy load.

Vibrelli Hydration Pack

$24 on Amazon

CamelBak Bootlegger Ski Hydration Pack

$65 on Amazon

CamelBak Zoid Hydration Pack

$90 on Amazon


Winter might feel chilly, dark, and a bit gloomy, but it doesn't mean your fitness routine has to go into hibernation. 

In fact, this season opens the door to exciting and unique workout opportunities that you can't experience any other time of the year.

Why not embrace the winter by trying out some special cold-weather activities? 

These winter-specific exercises not only keep your fitness routine fresh and engaging but also allow you to enjoy the beauty and fun of the winter months.

From all of us at Fit Results, we wish you a happy, healthy winter season!

By Rahul Malpe

Rahul is a dedicated nutritionist and personal trainer with expertise in the science of nutrition and its impact on the body. Certified by the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and the American Council of Exercise (ACE), he is committed to educating individuals through sharing science-based information on making smart food choices. By writing informative articles, Rahul aims to empower people with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their health and wellness journeys.