Winter can be a difficult season to continue your exercise program. Cold weather makes it hard to get outdoors. So, many people just pack up their exercise clothes and wait for spring. Unfortunately, you'll probably gain weight when you don't exercise. Also, all the hard work you put in to get in shape goes to waste.
The good news is that you can still continue to exercise during the winter. You just have to prepare differently. With the right clothing and good information, you can exercise all winter. Then, you'll feel and look even better when spring arrives.
You can still go outside.
Many people don't like working out in a gym. Running on a treadmill or other piece of equipment can be boring. Power walking through a mall is not very exciting, either.
But don't let cold weather end your exercise. The Mayo Clinic is one of America's leading hospitals. They have some tips for exercising during cold weather. These tips can help you stay fit, motivated, and warm when the weather turns chilly.
Almost everyone can exercise safely during cold weather. But there are some health conditions that should keep you indoors. If you have asthma, which causes trouble breathing, you should exercise indoors. Also, if you have heart problems, see your doctor before you exercise in cold weather. Your doctor can review any special precautions.
Dress in layers.
Here is an odd fact. Dressing too warmly is among the biggest mistakes you can make while exercising in cold weather. Exercise generates a lot of heat. In fact, exercise makes you feel like it's much warmer than it really is. Yet, once your sweat starts to dry, you can get cold.
What can you do about it?
The answer is simple. Dress in layers that you can remove as soon as you start to sweat. Then you can put the layers back on when you get cold.
Here is the best way to layer your clothes for cold weather exercising. First, put on a thin layer of synthetic material. Synthetic materials are man-made materials. Synthetic materials are made to draw sweat away from your body. Avoid cotton, which stays wet next to your skin.
Next, add a layer of fleece or wool for insulation. Top that layer with a waterproof, breathable outer layer. A heavy down jacket or vest may cause you to overheat if you're exercising hard. If you're thinner, you may need more insulation than someone who is heavier. If it's very cold, try wearing a face mask or scarf. That way, you can warm the air before it enters your lungs.
You may need to try different combinations of clothing layers. Find the best combination of clothing that works well for you. It may even depend on how hard you exercise. For example, stop-and-go activities can make you feel the cold more. If you mix walking with running, you'll keep sweating and then get chilly.
Do your warm-up.
Before you exercise outdoors, do your stretching inside. After your outdoor workout, you should also do your cool down inside. After your workout is finished, don't stand around in your damp clothes. You should go inside right away.
Protect your hands, feet, and ears.
When it's cold, blood flow tries to stay in your body's core. Your core is the area of your chest and stomach. When your blood flow stays in your core, your hands and feet can get frostbite. Frostbite is defined as an injury or destruction of skin and tissue caused by cold. Frostbite most often affects the nose, ears, fingers, or toes. It happens when your body is exposed to longer periods of freezing or subfreezing temperatures.
You need to protect the parts of your body that can get frostbite most often. Wear a thin pair of gloves under a pair of heavier gloves or mittens. Your gloves or mittens should be lined with wool or fleece. Put on the mittens or gloves before your hands become cold. Then remove the mittens or gloves if your hands begin to sweat.
You should buy exercise shoes a half-size or one size larger than usual. That way, you can wear thick thermal socks or an extra pair of regular socks. And don't forget a hat or headband to protect your ears. Frostbite happens to ears very often in the cold.
Pay attention to weather conditions and wind chill.
The cold can be even more dangerous if you exercise when it's cold and raining. If you get soaked, it's harder to keep your body temperature warm enough. Layering clothes will not help if your clothes are wet. If it is extremely cold, you may need to take your exercise indoors. Or, you may choose to skip your outdoor workouts for a day or two.
Windchill extremes can make exercising outdoors unsafe even if you dress warmly. The wind can penetrate your clothes. Windchill also removes the layer of warm air that surrounds your body. As the wind gets rid of the warm air, any exposed skin can get frostbite.
Don't exercise outside if the temperature is below 0˚ Fahrenheit. Also, don't exercise outside if the windchill is extreme. You should take a day off. Or you can choose an indoor activity instead.
Choose appropriate gear.
In winter, the sun sets earlier. So if you like exercising after work, it is probably already dark. If it is dark when you exercise outside, wear reflective clothing. It's also important to stay steady on your feet. So choose footwear with enough traction to prevent falls, especially if it's icy or snowy. Wear a helmet while skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. Consider using chemical heat packs to warm up your hands or feet.
It's as easy to get sunburned in winter as in summer. You'll actually get sunburned quicker if you're exercising in the snow or at high altitudes. Wear a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Your sunscreen should have an SPF of at least 30. Use a lip balm that also contains sunscreen. And protect your eyes from snow and ice glare with dark glasses or goggles.
Head into the wind.
If possible, do the second half of your workout with the wind at your back. Then, you're less likely to get chilled, especially if you've worked up a sweat. You may have to plan your exercise route before you leave.
Drink plenty of fluids.
Just like in warm weather, you need to drink plenty of fluids in cold weather. Drink water or sports drinks before, during, and after your workout. Even if you're not really thirsty, keep drinking liquids. You can become just as dehydrated in the cold as in the heat. Dehydration occurs when you don't have enough water in your body. It may be harder to notice dehydration during cold weather.
Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
Frostbite is most common on exposed skin, such as your cheeks, nose, and ears. It also can occur on hands and feet. Early warning signs include numbness, loss of feeling, or a stinging feeling. If you think you have frostbite, get out of the cold immediately. Slowly warm the area of your body that you think has frostbite. Don't rub it because that can damage your skin. If numbness continues, seek emergency care.
Exercising in cold, rainy weather increases the risk of hypothermia. Hypothermia is when your body temperature becomes too low. Hypothermia signs and symptoms include intense shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination, and fatigue. Seek emergency help right away for possible hypothermia.
Putting it all together for cold-weather safety.
These tips can help you safely exercise when the weather turns chilly. But as you exercise during cold weather, pay attention to how your body feels. Think about making your outdoor workout shorter. Or skip it altogether during weather extremes.
And remember that the cold affects everyone differently. A muscular person has an advantage when exercising in the cold. Muscle generates a lot of heat. It also provides thermal insulation. If you don't have lots of muscle, be extra careful when exercising in the cold.
Don't try to do a long workout your first time out in the cold. Start with a smaller time period. Then, increase the time of your exercise outdoors after that. Know when to head home and warm up. Also, be sure to let someone know your exercise route and your expected return time. That way, someone will know in case something does go wrong.
But even when it's cold, an outdoor workout can help your mental fitness, as well. Lynne Robinson is a fitness instructor and author. She says shorter, darker days can cause winter blues. But studies show that exercise helps prevent depression. "I like to think of it as thoughtful exercise," Robinson says. "You forget about your other worries. You could be on a sunny beach somewhere."