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Create your own exercise program this winter that will put you on the path to a heart-healthy new year

If you’re like the millions of people who made a new year’s resolution to join a gym to exercise more and lose a few pounds, that plan may have ended before it really began. The reason might not be your motivation, it might be your approach. Take a page out of your childhood and find something active you like to do—indoors or out. When you actually enjoy an activity, it’s easier to make time to do it (and it’s even more fun with a few friends along).

In the spirit of February being American Heart Month, it’s time to get your game on and your heart pumping. Here are a few ideas for adding exercise back into your life.

Ice skating

Ice skating is a bit like riding a bike. Even if it’s been years, after putting on a pair of skates and stepping out onto the ice, it all comes back to you. And if you never did get the hang of skating, there‘s always a wall (or a friend) to grab onto when you’re at a rink.

• The Rink at Thompson’s Point(therinkatthompsonspoint.com) in Portland is outdoors but covered, so you have some protection from the weather. A Zamboni smooths out the ice and rentals are available. Warming huts with food and beverages cap off the trip. And if you time your visit right, watching the sunset over the water is a special treat.

• The Family Ice Center in Falmouth(familyice.org) operates an outdoor rink, Lee Twombly Pond, that is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The warming hut, skate rentals and smooth, Zamboni ice make it as easy place to squeeze in an hour of exercise into your day.

• Portland’s Troubh Ice Arena(portlandmaine.gov/388/Troubh-Ice-Arena) is an indoor rink with smooth ice and public skating. They also have an adult learn-to-skate program on Sunday afternoons if you’re feeling inspired by the Winter Olympic skating competitors (the games begin Feb. 9).

Sledding

Not just for kids, sledding is classic outdoor fun. The ride down is a happy breeze, and that trek back up the hill with your sled in tow will definitely get your heart rate up and remind you how much fun snow can be when you’re not driving to work in it. There are sleds in all shapes and sizes (cardboard works just fine in a pinch). All you need to do is scout out a neighborhood hill. (Ask the kids in your life. They’ll know.)

Cross-country skiing

Get your heart rate up with a pair of skis. Groomed trails abound around Maine. Photo by Shannon Bryan

Cross-country skiing is an excellent heart-pumping activity. It’s also fun to learn with a friend, if you’ve never tried it before. There is a trail system in nearly every community in Maine. Sharing the trails with snowmobiles does require some caution but close-to-home, multi-use trails are a convenient way to squeeze in some exercise. If you’re looking for groomed trails, which are definitely easier, or you are in need of equipment, there are some great options:

• Riverside Golf Course in Portland (trails.org/our-trails/riverside-golf-course) is groomed for cross-country skiing (and snowshoeing) as weather permits. The trails are groomed for both classic and skate skiing with some small hills that make this trail system fun. And there are lights, so a quick after-work adventure is an option. No equipment rentals are available, but it’s dog-friendly!

• Cumberland’s Twin Brook​ (cumberlandmaine.com/twin-brook) is also a nicely groomed option with trails through the woods and a track in the open field. Dogs are permitted, but there are no rentals.

• Carter’s X-C Ski Centers in Oxford and Bethel​ (cartersxcski.com) are full-service with rentals, provide expert advice at their pro shop and have plenty of beginner and intermediate trails. The Bethel trail system offers beautiful views of the Mahoosuc and Presidential ranges, so skiing and stopping to take in the mountains is in order here. Some dogs are allowed on the trails but owners must call ahead to confirm, and a trail pass for your canine friend is required.

• Pineland Farms in New Gloucester​ (pinelandfarms.org/recreation/winter) has groomed trails with a rental shop and a small food market for an after-exercise snack. Lessons are available by appointment but note, dogs are not permitted here.

Winter hiking

Maine state parks​ (maine.gov/dacf/parks/index.shtml) are beautiful in the winter, offering a uniquely different experience in the snow. Create a goal for yourself to explore as many parks as you can this winter. It makes for a great exercise plan to get your heart pumping and your body moving among some awesome coastal and forest scenery. Although bathrooms and most buildings are not open in winter, many parks welcome visitors all year round. Note that parking lots may not be plowed so call ahead to inquire about conditions.

INDOOR FUN

So the snow and cold isn’t your jam? You need some heart-pumping activity inside that isn’t in a gym? Here are a few indoor options.

Aqua fitness

It might be snowing outside but there are still plenty of places to swim in February in Maine. Community pools offer open swims and many have aqua fitness classes to offer some resistance training to your weekly workout. Portland’s Riverton Community Center pool​ (portlandmaine.gov/673/Aquatics) has water aerobics classes in the morning and evening. There are also adult-only lap swim times. The South Portland Community Center pool (southportland.org/departments/parks-recreation-aquaticspool/south-portland-aquatics-program) has water aerobics classes in both shallow and deep water for different intensity workouts. Saint Joseph’s College in Standish (sjcme.edu) has morning classes most weekdays and an evening class on Mondays (no need to be a college student to join a class).

Zumba

Dancing doesn’t feel like exercise during this class with Studio Fit in Portland. Photo by Shannon Bryan

For people who like to laugh and have some fun with like-minded booty shakers, a Zumba class is a great exercise option. For some classes, dimmed lights and a disco ball are part of the experience. Studio Fit holds classes at Happy Wheels roller skating rink in Portland (studiofitmaine.com). There are basic dance steps that are repetitive so you don’t need formal dance training to do them. It’s a great cardio workout that only cares you are moving and working up a sweat, not how you dance. There are classes all over Maine. Search zumba.com​ for a class near you.

Yoga

There’s nothing like walking into a warm yoga studio on a cold winter day. It may not be an activity associated to get your heart-pumping, but power yoga classes, and even slower moving classes, keep your body moving and help you feel stronger. There are traditional studios as well as pop-up events at breweries and other fun locations. Greener Postures in South Portland and Yarmouth (greenerposturesyoga.com), Gorham Yoga Company in Gorham (gorhamyogacompany.com), Yoga on York in York (yogaonyork.com), Chill Yoga in Lewiston (chillyoga.net), and Portland Yoga Studio (portlandyoga.com) in Portland are among the many options in Southern Maine.

Wendy Almeida is a freelance writer who has been exploring the Maine outdoors with her kids for more than 18 years and they’re nowhere near done yet.

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