Sledding isn't just for fun: It burns calories, too!

I don't know about you, but December (heck, end of October) rolls around and I'm ready to burrow down and hibernate for the winter. That means calling it an early night every night when the sun goes down just after dinner, wrapping up in some flannel blankets, and packing on the holiday pounds. My running schedule gets thrown out the window -- I'm sorry, but there are some days when I can't make myself bundle up and go for a run. Running in the cold is the ultimate paradox. You either start out freezing and end up at an okay temperature, or you overdress, start out warm, and end up dying of heat.

(Except for your ears -- the edges of those fall off.) 

(And your chin -- your jaw is now frozen clenched.)

(Oh, and your nose -- the tip turns as red as Rudolph's.) 

So what can you do if you're not willing to give in to the winter blues? Cross-training! It's a lifesaver. Cross-training works out muscles that your typical workout doesn't, mixes things up so you don't get bored, and spares tired joints and bones the same old, continuous strain. 

If you're familiar with cross-training, your brain might automatically jump to swimming laps in a frigid pool over and over again ... or parking yourself on a stationary bike at the gym and pedaling away for hours (and I mean hours! You really have to bike and bike and bike if you want to replicate a long run). But what if you ream up with winter instead? If you can't beat 'em, join 'em -- right?

Winter sports are a blast for lots of reasons: we don't get to do them as often as we might like, and they can really get the adrenaline pumping. Also, zooming down the side of a hill in a toboggan doesn't seem like much work. But it is!

According to CalorieLab, you can burn up to 400 calories per hour while sledding. How? Well, let's think about this. One, you're probably lugging your sled (the bigger and heavier your sled, the more calories you burn) around. Two, trekking up a hill in deep snow (free resistance training) in clumsy boots takes a lot of effort. Three, you probably work up a sweat as your body tries to keep itself warm in that oversized winter coat. Skating can burn about 300 calories per hour, and skiing can burn up to 1,000 depending on the kind you're doing. And the best part is that you don't even feel like you're doing the work!

So where should you go for these activities in Maryland? Ski resorts like Liberty and Wisp offer up more than just a bourgeois place to spend the night and ski slopes. Both locations have slopes dedicated to snow tubing. Just make sure you make the walk back up the hill with your tube, and don't cheat by riding the belt back up. And, hey, standing in those lines probably burns a couple extra calories, too. As an Annapolitan, my favorite spot for winter sports is the outdoor skating rink at Quiet Waters Park.

So don't let winter get in your way when it comes to health and fitness. Roll with the punches and change with the seasons!

What's your favorite winter sport? Let us know in the comments below.

The Run-Around is a weekly feature, focusing on fitness in and around Annapolis, MD.

Check out our list of favorite places to go ice skating in Maryland!

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