Even the most dedicated exerciser can get discouraged by chilly temperatures, but there are ways to stay warm and adapt your routine to help you get through the cold months. Here are some tips for staying warm while exercising this season:
1. Pay attention to weather conditions:
When you check the temperature outside, don’t forget to pay attention to the wind chill. Temperature, wind, moisture and the length of time that you’ll be outside are key considerations in planning a safe cold-weather workout. Wind chill extremes can make exercising outdoors unsafe, even if you are dressed warmly. The wind can penetrate your clothes and remove the insulating layer of warm air that surrounds your body, and any exposed skin is vulnerable to frostbite.
2. Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia:
Frostbite is an injury to your body caused by freezing, most often occurring on exposed skin (cheeks, nose, ears and hands). Early warning signs include numbness, loss of feeling or a stinging sensation. If these signs occur, immediately get out of the cold and slowly warm the affected area, being careful not to rub the area. Hypothermia is an abnormally low body temperature. You can become hypothermic even if the temperature is well above freezing. Signs of this include shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination and fatigue. If you experience these signs, get to a warmer area immediately.
Speaking of wind, no one wants windburn! Make sure you use extra moisturizer on any area of skin that will be exposed when you’re exercising outside. Pay special attention to your face, and don’t forget your lips. (And don’t forget that it’s important to wear sunscreen — even in the winter!)
4. Wear the right clothing:
The key is layers! Many people make the mistake of dressing too warmly. Exercise generates a considerable amount of heat – enough to make you feel like it’s MUCH warmer than it really is. But the evaporation of sweat can make you lose heat from your body and feel chilled. The solution? Dress in layers that you can remove as soon as you start to sweat, and can put back on as needed. An ideal outfit would include a base layer of thin, synthetic material (for example, polypropylene), which draws sweat away from your body, a middle layer of fleece or wool for insulation and a waterproof, breathable outer layer. Avoid wearing cotton, which stays wet next to your skin.
5. Protect your head, hands, feet and ears:
When your body is cold, your blood flow is concentrated in your body’s core, leaving your head, hands and feet vulnerable to frostbite. Make sure you wear gloves, a hat or earmuffs, or even a scarf or ski mask to protect your face. It’s best to wear a thin pair of glove liners made of a wicking material under a pair of heavier gloves that are lined with wool or fleece. That way, you can shed layers on your hands as well. Also, be sure to wear thick, warm socks.
6. Drink plenty of fluids:
You need to stay well hydrated when you exercise in cold weather, just as you do when exercising in warm weather. Drink water or sports drinks before, during and after your workout, even if you don’t feel thirsty. You can easily become dehydrated in the cold from sweating, breathing and the drying power of the winter wind.
7. Keep someone informed:
If you’re working out outdoors, be sure to let a friend or family member know where you’re going and what time you expect to return, just in case something goes wrong.
8. Know your health limits:
Most people don’t have a problem exercising in cold weather, but if you have asthma or a heart condition, talk to your doctor to ensure that it’s safe. Also, discuss what types of weather temperatures and conditions you should avoid.
9. Stay safe:
There’s less daylight in winter months, so many people find themselves working out in the dark. If you do this, keep safety in mind. Always have your cell phone and a driver’s license or ID with you. Don’t wear jewelry or carry money. Dress to be seen – wear something reflective. Stay alert, and if possible, don’t exercise alone in the dark.
10. If it’s just TOO cold outside, exercise indoors:
There are lots of safe exercises you can do in the comfort of your home or garage, such as jumping rope, stair stepping, planks, dancing, lunges, jumping jacks and lifting weights. If you don’t have dumbbells at home, try using paint cans, milk jugs or soup cans. You can also use resources such as your smartphone or the Internet for free workout videos to follow.
What are your favorite cold-weather workout tips? Tell us in the comments below!