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Steve Parrish counts on the regularity of showing up for an early morning cycle class at Cheshire Fitness & Racquet Club to keep him active during the winter months. Starting the day with a good workout gives him lots of energy for the rest of the day, he said.

He also finds trail running to be beautiful in winter. With little humidity and the peaceful feeling in the air, it’s so completely different from other seasons, he said.

If you're like many, winter weather can make working out seem less than desirable. After all, who likes to dress like a mummy to go for a run or risk slipping on ice when out for a walk? Even heating up the car in the wee hours of the morning to get to the gym for a favorite class or fitness routine can be tough.

Although we may want to stay snuggled up in bed or on the couch, winter shouldn't be a time for personal fitness to hibernate, especially with so many holiday treats around. With the right attitude and variety of exercise choices, winter can be a great time to mix up your workouts, revisit fitness goals, get creative and try some new activities.

There are many options for staying active during winter months here in the Valley. Black Mountain’s Lakeview Center at Lake Tomahawk offers weekly classes that include high- and low-impact aerobics, chair aerobics, chair yoga, beginning line dance, Tai Chi and square dance.

Many of these have no cost, and some have a minimal one. Though the Lakeview Center draws many seniors for lunch and other enrichment activities, the programming is for any adult. For more, call 669-8610 or access the monthly class schedule at townofblackmountain.org. Town programming at the Carver Center brings additional fitness classes; call 669-2052 for more.

Considered one of the best overall options for fitness, swimming is available at Cheshire Fitness Club. A guest pass may be purchased, or you can pay by the month for a full membership. January brings their no initiation fee opportunity. A host of fitness classes and full range of weight and cardio equipment is in place at Cheshire, open seven days a week from early to late.

Other close-by fitness opportunities include Ascending Fitness, Pisgah CrossFit and Black Mountain Yoga, each being favorite spots for folks in the community. Velo Girls offers winter group bike rides. For many, the sense of community formed through shared fitness adds to the quality of their lives. Just ask someone that is affiliated with one of the many facilities, and you will quickly hear how exercising with peers is good for the body and the soul.

Winter is a beautiful time for hiking, providing completely different views and a different feel all together. Consider the trails in Montreat, those at Blue Ridge Assembly and more that are part of the Warren Wilson College properties. Ridgecrest Conference offers more. In some cases, a trail map or assistance is available at a main desk area.

Also consider flatter trails along the town's greenway paths and at the In the Oaks campus of Montreat College in Black Mountain. Weekly hikes are also programmed out of the Lakeview Center.

Gary Hamrick finds the responsibility of having a dog who needs to be walked daily helps him remain active during winter. He also stays motivated by just showing up at the gym, and once he's there, the energy of others also exercising motivates him. And keeping up with yard work also keeps him moving.

Signing up for a new class or joining an indoor sports league can do much to motivate and keep you accountable to sticking with fitness. It might be indoor volleyball, an aerobic or yoga class, indoor tennis or racquetball, swimming, or a gym membership. Participating in a regular activity that you've paid for or having teammates counting on you is a good way to increase motivation. In many cases, these activities also nurture new friendships.

One of the most minimal effort choices is to get creative at home. Pop in a workout DVD, purchase a few pieces of fitness equipment like light weights and a large ball, play energizing music or watch TV while you get moving.

Setting a big goal, and some little goals along with it, is another way to keep motivation up. Get going with a personally challenging new goal. It might be doing a full pull-up, a 30-minute continuous swim or holding a plank for a set amount of time. Choosing a goal you really want to obtain will stretch you beyond your comfort level.

A smart goal that you can break down into smaller, achievable steps is a wise way to start. Instead of focusing on simply working out this winter, this type of goal-setting allows you to focus on something specific.

Local parent Alison Banzhoff has found the Girls on the Run program at Black Mountain Elementary to be a good way to incorporate fitness for her family. Her daughter Ava is part of the program, while older sister Anna enjoys running with the group after school. The track at the school is available for public use at any time.

When exercising outdoors in the winter, it's important to closely monitor your body and be aware if you are having any of the following symptoms - drowsiness, weakness, loss of coordination, pale or cold skin, confusion, uncontrollable shivering, slowed breathing or slowed heart rate. When you recognize any of these conditions, it's time to go inside right away, as they could be signs of hypothermia.

Dress appropriately for cold weather; it’s best to dress in layers that can be peeled off as you warm up. Stay close to home. If you begin getting too cold, you can get back quickly. Carry a cell phone in case of emergency. Let friends and family know what you are doing, where you'll be going, and when you should be back.

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