When hats, gloves, base layers, and thermal socks become part of your normal exercise gear, it can only mean one thing: winter conditions have arrived. Cold weather may cause you to dress differently for your weekly workouts, but that is not the only havoc dropping temperatures are wreaking upon your fitness routine. Injuries, outdoor risks, and physical stress are on the risk of lists, too. Keep these tips in mind when exercising in the cold outdoors.
Stuffed with holiday stuffing? Had more goodies than was good for you? If you plan to make winter the season to get back in shape, make sure you keep it safe. According to the American Heart Association, people who are not conditioned for cold weather physical stress should avoid sudden exertion. Even lifting heavy snow while shoveling or walking through wet, heavy snow can tax the heart.
That doesn’t mean you can’t workout in a winter wonderland; you just should start slow. Walk short distances on your first few times out in the elements. Add in longer distances as you feel more comfortable. If you plan to switch to running, try intervals of walking and running to help build up your stamina.
Cover your airway openings (your mouth and nose), with a scarf or neck gaiter. Cold, dry air can leave you feeling short of breath. Breathing through fabric can help keep warm air flowing in and out, allowing you to breathe more easily.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
It is recommended to dress in layers so that you can best regulate your temperature once your body warms up from the exercise. The problem is, when your body feels warm, it’s easy to want to remove more and more layers, leaving extremities too vulnerable to the conditions.
Frostbite and hypothermia are big risks for outdoor athletes, and your hands, nose, cheeks, and ears are often most defenseless. Even your corneas can get too cold! Be sure to keep as much of your skin covered when working out in low windchills, and wear sunglasses or goggles to protect your peepers. Look for fabrics that wick away sweat and moisture. Damp fabric, such as cotton, can continue to lower your body temperature to unsafe levels. Also, always wear a hat for added warmth. Thirty to 40 percent of body heat can escape from your cranium.
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
It’s easy to associate good hydration with summer, since that seems to be a sweaty season. But just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can skip the H2o. Sweat from your body evaporates more quickly in cold weather than it does in hot, so you may not notice how much fluid your body is losing. Continue drinking water consistently throughout your workout.
If you’re going to be out in the elements for a long period of time–such as, a day on the slopes–pack energy bars and warm soups to give you the fuel you need to keep going.
Winter conditions can mean slick, icy terrains that will require more stabilizing muscles to come into play. It’s easy to strain a muscle when slippery surfaces catch you off guard. Try to stick to paths that are well cleared and salted. If those don’t exist, consider changing your gear to those made specifically for perilous conditions. Ice cleats and attachable treads are great if you walk, run, or play outdoor sports, while tire studs are the way to go for winter biking. Also consider switching up your routine to take advantage of the weather. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating take advantage of all that winter can throw your way.
Winter weather may be here, but that doesn’t mean you have to hibernate (even as tempting as it may sound). Make safety a priority and the season can work for you and your workouts.
What’s your favorite winter outdoor activities? Tell us in the comments!
American Heart Association