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It could be important for your health to do outdoor winter training – despite the weather

Research shows that outdoor physical activity is really important to the health of both body and mind, and even-though being active and getting exercise, for instance in a fitness centre, is important for your health, it could be even better to go outside and do your training.

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According to research being physically active and surrounded by nature or other green environments has a strong de-stressing effect.

Swedish doctor and PhD, Mathilda Van Den Bosch, found in her research that women, who exercise and live in natural surroundings, significantly decrease their risk of developing a mental illness.

It is the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which reacts to these natural surroundings, in such a way that going for a walk or run in the forest activates the parasympathetic nervous system’s ability to generate feelings of inner calm, mental reloading and balance.

Being physically active outdoors during the winter season in Denmark may seem a bigger challenge than it actually is. And you will find that outdoor training or running – all year round – is growing in popularity here.

Using the outdoor spaces available to get people to move makes a lot of sense, and in many municipalities creating outdoor spaces to help people move more outdoors is a priority.

So why not give it a try? You can easily find an outdoor facility near you where you can start or you can join an outdoor fitness or running club. Having the right training gear is important – find here our tips for what to wear when.

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TIPS for the best winter training gear

1.   Dress so that when you start it is a little cold – once you warm up from the exercise – your gear will fit with the training

2.  Layering is important – make sure that your inner layer is sweat absorbent – and leads the sweat away from your body – as this will diminish the humidity and cooling of the skin

3.  Use a running vest or jacket – they will help keep out the wind and rain – and running gloves can be a good investment for the cold days. If you get to warm you can easily take them off and put them in your pocket

4.  Remember – if you get wet(sweaty) from hard exercise – go indoors immediately or put on more clothes. In the winter the body cools down quickly

Where to do outdoor winter training?

Outdoor training opportunities are growing, for instance if you cannot find a group to join, but still want to get all the benefits of outdoor training, then take advantage of the training facilities many municipalities have built in their parks and other outdoor locations to encourage adults and children to play and exercise more outdoors.

Aarhus has created more than 24 activity locations together with local organisations, while Odense has recently refurbished their first one at Munke Mosen (out of a total of four).

To find a municipal outdoor training location you can try to search with the words “fitness i det fri”, “udendørs fitness anlæg” or ”træning i det fri” and your local municipality’s name.

When doing so for Aarhus the site appears, and all the locations are shown on a map with a little fitness symbol. If you do so for Copenhagen it is a bit more complicated but in this link here you can find a couple of them.

You can also go to this site here made by one of the producers of outdoor training sites – they have all of the ones they have built located on a map of Denmark.

All the training sites are free to use and open 24/7 to the public.

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Outdoor cross fit running
Maybe running alone in the dark on paths full of ice and snow, or just wet and muddy, is not something you fancy.

Instead, try out one of the many cross-fit runs organised from November to February.

Cross-fit runs often take place during the weekend – when there is still daylight – and always on forest-paths through different terrain.
Cross-fit runs are for every level of running proficiency, both the novice and the more experienced can join.

You will find cross-fit clubs all over Denmark.

On the site you can find a calendar covering all runs coming up with details of their length and location. Participating is mostly at a low fee of DKK 25 per run.

You will find links to the local clubs in your area – only in Danish so do some Google translate or ask Danish friends to help. You can also call Martin Bork who runs the site for help and information at + 45 2620 9720.

You could also join the running club with the unlikely name the Hash House Harriers – participation is free apart from small contributions for drinks etc – as the club is run on a voluntary basis – you can find more information in our article here

Other opportunities are regular indoor fitness centres that also offer outdoor training options such as Seier Fitness in Aarhus, who do outdoor running sessions.Even regular outdoor fitness clubs are on the rise for instance in the Copenhagen area.

“I think we were among the very first when we developed our outdoor training concept eight years ago,” says Susanne Evers Thomsen, who runs the company TwinSpirit together with Annette Sørensen in the Copenhagen area.

Others include former fitness centre trainers who felt like going outside but still wanted to offer training sessions.

In the Aarhus area, Philip T runs his own outdoor training business, which he developed because he felt being outdoors gave more to the mind and he wanted to share this with his customers.

“When I run in the forest or park, my mind relaxes in a different way, compared to being in a fitness centre with music and noise from the machines and other people.

Outdoors, the mind concentrates on the training task ahead and even though a lot of thoughts still go through my head, I feel more uplifted and in good spirits after being outside.

Even in the wintertime, when it’s cold and rainy, I sometimes think “am I really going out now?”, but afterwards it just feels so good,” Philip explains passionately.

“I enjoy sharing this with my customers and I have tried to develop some flexible training options in different outdoor locations. At the moment they are only in the afternoons, but I also have in mind to start something in the mornings, maybe for an elderly group or others with a more flexible schedule”.

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Start your own outdoor training group

A group of expat spouses join in the weekly Fartlek session every Wednesday morning (during school term) at Charlottenlund Fort, north of Copenhagen.

Fartlek is a Swedish concept of outdoor interval training. Sonia Varey joined the Fartlek when she moved to Denmark and became so passionate about it that she took over running the sessions when the original founder left.

The sessions are free, take place around a huge hawthorn hedge next to the beach all year round, and are run on a voluntary basis.

The idea originated when an accompanying spouse started it ten years ago, gathering other spouses from her children’s international school.

“I can only recommend other expat groups to start their own if they are too far away from Charlottenlund to join in,” Sonia says.

She believes that anyone who has done fitness training could start it and even find more information on the internet about the concept and combine being outdoors with exercise, not forgetting that the social gathering is an essential part too.

“I tell people that I don’t have a professional training degree, but I have been doing a lot of training myself, I have done fitness courses, so I feel confident about putting together the lessons,“ she explains.

Everyone can join in, no previous training or running requirements are needed. “Since we do interval training, running around the hawthorn hedge a number of times and then stopping to do some exercises, beginners can walk around when they get tired, there is no competition between advanced and beginners,” Sonia states.

“We could just meet for coffee and not train, that would be easier, but the training boosts endorphins in the body and literally lifts your spirits. Being outside is an extra bonus somehow, and I always leave the group session feeling great (if not a little out of breath) and ready to tackle the day ahead,” Sonia laughs.

Sonia left Denmark after this interview and another expat spouse has taken over running the sessions.