FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fluctuating south Alabama temperatures can make it difficult to maintain a healthy autumn fitness schedule, but numerous options exist on post to help keep anyone on track and in shape.

According to Zea Urbiztondo, Fort Rucker fitness program specialist, a wide range of group fitness classes are available to patrons.

"Group exercise classes are a great way for patrons to get their workouts in without having to worry about what to do," she said. "Instructors program the classes to ensure the patrons work hard, but still have fun."

Classes are held at both the Fort Rucker Physical Fitness Center and Fortenberry-Colton PFC, and are varied to provide training for every fitness goal, she added.

"In addition to long-time favorites such as spinning and yoga, group exercise also offers several classes that introduce patrons to elements they might not have experienced," Urbiztondo said. "Group exercise class calendars are available at both fitness facilities and are updated monthly to include new class options."

WellBeats, an interactive instructional fitness video series available at Fortenberry-Colton PFC, provides an additional indoor fitness resource for patrons who can't attend regularly scheduled classes.

"WellBeats is a great resource for those who are interested in group exercise classes, but unable to attend a scheduled class," Urbiztondo said. "Virtual instructors lead the class, complete with modifications for patrons using the system."

Fortenberry-Colton PFC also hosts basketball courts, volleyball courts, and a rock climbing wall that patrons can enjoy when temperatures drop during autumn and winter.

"The functional fitness area, found within the Fort Rucker PFC, offers a wide range of equipment to enhance workouts, including an indoor turf, sleds, tires, and plenty of pull-up bars and climbing ropes," Urbiztondo said. "Treadmills, rowing machines and stationary bikes are also available at either facility for those who normally enjoy running or biking outdoors in warmer weather."

According to Urbiztondo, the functional fitness area recently grew in offerings and now hosts six squat racks, monkey bars, six double wall-ball targets and two sets of gymnastic rings.

Some patrons may choose to brave the colder weather and continue their training outdoors. Urbiztondo offered a few tips to ensure safe and productive training sessions in colder climate.

"One of the most important things to remember when exercising outdoors in colder weather is to dress appropriately," she said. "You do not want to dress too warmly -- exercise generates heat and, by having too many layers on, you may feel warmer than you really are during exercise. Your sweat then evaporates, leaving you feeling chilled and at risk for hypothermia.

"If you choose to exercise outdoors, you want to dress in layers that you are able to remove as you work out, then put back on as you cool down when finished," she added. "Always remember to protect your head, hands and feet from the cold elements and use lip balm to help protect against wind chill."

In addition to dressing for the weather, Urbiztondo emphasized the importance of hydration and properly warming up cold muscles.

"Hydration is still just as important when exercising in cold weather versus hot weather," she said. "Even though you may not feel as thirsty or sweaty after working out in the cold, it is important to continue to hydrate before, during and after exercise.

"Dynamic warm-ups are the best way to ensure your muscles are ready to exercise and helps minimize the risk of muscular injury," she added. "Think about what exercise activity you are about to participate in and perform warm-ups that mimic that activity and to get your blood moving and your muscles warm."

Urbiztondo suggests beginning with stationary, isolated movements such as arm circles or trunk twists, then progress to more complex movements such as mountain climbers or high knees.

"For example, if you are going for a run outdoors, do some jumping jacks, high knees, skips and lunges," she said.

Why is it important to remain active even when the weather outside is less than desirable?

"It is important to remain physically active, even during the colder weather months," Urbiztondo said. "It helps keep energy levels up, especially when the days feel shorter and things get busy with the holidays. A lot of people find that maintaining a regular exercise program helps keep them from feeling overwhelmed during the holiday season.

"By continuing to exercise regularly, you can also help ward off colds and other symptoms common during cold weather months," she added. "Improved overall health boosts your immune system, making you less susceptible to sniffles and coughs that many other people are plagued with during the winter."

For more information about group fitness classes or amenities offered at PFCs on post, call 255-2296 or visit https://rucker.armymwr.com/programs/fitness-centers/.