With the winter sports season coming up fast, now is a great time to start thinking about getting in shape for the outdoors. The go-to hero for this seems to be the elliptical trainer, which can mimic the action of cross-country skiing. But to really take your pre-season training up a level, consider these bursts of activity, instead. They're not only challenging, but will get you out in the fresh air as well. (Remember to check with your doctor before taking on any new exercise program.)

Hill Sprints

Hill sprints are a fantastic way to work in burst training, because they're fast, challenging, and create natural resistance that works for muscle building and cardio at the same time. For virtually any winter sport, this training can get you conditioned both for endurance and for that all-important leg power. Just take on any hill (bleachers work too) that you can successfully sprint up in 30 seconds. Walk back down. Allow yourself a minute or so at the bottom, and sprint your way back up.

Hiking

Hiking during the summer is a great regular activity, but hiking in the fall allows you to go longer due to the cooler temperatures. As leaves fall, you'll also find it easier to find tougher terrain without the obstruction from leaves and underbrush. Just be sure when you hike you don't take a leisurely stroll. Set a start and end point, and try to beat your time. The key here is endurance, and the rough terrain helps develop a lot of muscular skills, flexibility and balance that normal street jogging just doesn't touch.

Trail Running

Trail running is similar to hiking in that it develops all of the terrain skills and complex muscle networks that will ultimately lead to more stability and mobility in your winter activities. Adding the cardiovascular challenge of jogging into the mix helps to develop your endurance as well. The best trails I've found tend to be off-road or mountain biking trails. They're cleared out, so you can get some speed, but are still rough enough to offer a challenge. Be sure to stay safe, and preferably work out with a friend. Walk the trail first to make sure it's safe.

Playground

 

Hitting the playground with my kid is one of my favourite outdoor activities. It's like a little custom-made obstacle course that you can adapt and run at any speed or intensity you want. Plus, there are plenty of choices for climbing, hanging, jumping and sliding. If that sounds childish, GREAT!! The whole point of being in shape is so you can feel and stay young. Get outside and play!