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Shed Your Pandemic Pounds with Outdoor Winter Activities

Photo for: Shed Your Pandemic Pounds with Outdoor Winter Activities

Plum Creek Greenway Trail at Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve. (Photo courtesy of Gregory Hejner)

If you gained weight in 2021, you are not alone.

Researchers say a good chunk of the population put on weight during the COVID-19 pandemic and they’re calling it the Quarantine 19. Children, too, were prone to pack on the pounds during the lockdowns.

And now with a winter resurgence of the virus, you might be looking for ways to drop the weight. If you’re still nervous about working out indoors, consider using the forest preserves as your outdoor workout wonderland this winter.

The Forest Preserve has more than 125 miles of paths that are perfect for walking, running, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, bird-watching and nature-absorbing fun. So, bundle up and explore a new or favorite trail; take a walk on the Wauponsee, a spin on the Centennial or a jaunt on the Joliet Junction.

Trails are asphalt, crushed limestone or natural surface and they travel through woodland, wetland, prairie and savanna terrain. Be sure to check individual trails to see which activities are allowed.

Winter activities

The preserves offer many different ways to enjoy winter and stay in shape. Visitors can snowshoe, sled, cross-country ski or skate in designated preserve locations.

Plum Creek Nature Center, located within Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve, is the District's winter activity hub. Visitors may sled down Goodenow Grove’s 40-foot-high sled hill or tackle the preserve's many trails on snowshoes.


Sledding is allowed after December 1, weather permitting. 

Ice skating also is possible when conditions are right at a Goodenow Grove pond. To check to see if there is sufficient snow cover for sledding or if the Goodenow Grove pond is sufficiently frozen for skating, call 708.946.2216.

Sledding also is allowed at Forked Creek Preserve – Butcher Lane Access in Wilmington, but is not supervised or monitored for snow conditions.

Finally, many Forest Preserve trails are open for cross-country skiing once they are snow covered. And if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate and the snow isn't flying, you can always hike a trail in winter.

If you’re looking for something else to do outdoors this season, peruse the District’s winter program offerings on the Event Calendar to find a program that fits your interests and might just help you fit into your old clothes.

Dress in layers

Would-be winter exercise enthusiasts should consult their doctors first if there is a medical condition that could prohibit or limit outdoor exercising in cold temperatures. Also, be on the lookout for frostbite and hypothermia symptoms. If you are going to brave the elements, dress in layers, according to Mayo Clinic's winter fitness tips page.

The first layer should be thin and made of a synthetic material, not cotton, which doesn’t wick moisture away from your body. Fleece or wool should be next, with a final layer made of a breathable material that is waterproof.

The clinic also urges people to protect their head, hands, feet and ears from the cold and to wear reflective clothing, sunscreen and proper footwear, headwear and eyewear associated with each sport.

Drink plenty of fluids while you're working out this winter because dehydration can be harder to notice in cold weather. The American Hiking Society, which has cold weather hiking tips, recommends boiling your water before venturing outdoors and keeping it close to your body in a tightly sealed container so the water doesn't freeze.


Stay up-to-date on the happenings in Will County's forest preserves by subscribing to The Compass, our weekly digital newsletter that provides subscribers with updates on Forest Preserve news, upcoming events, and other fun and useful information for the whole family. If you're only interested in programs, subscribe to Get Going, which outlines the must-do programs each week. Signing up for either newsletter is easy and free of charge.


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