It's easy to be intimidated by the athletes in the winter Olympics with their sleek thermal outfits and chilly determination to voluntarily go out and perform in the cold. As you sit on your couch at home watching them in sweats and slippers, thinking it's too cold to exercise outside, get inspired and the first step is to dress like an Olympian.
The truth is that you can continue to exercise during the winter and enjoy it, too. You just have to prep for the season's conditions with the right clothing and information. Then, you'll look and feel more like your favorite athletes.
One winter option is to bring your workouts indoors. However, you may want to step outside and have a little fun while you're working out. Skiing and ice skating can be great forms of exercise and you don't even need your running shoes. Just follow these tips from the Mayo Clinic and you will be able to stay in shape and stay safe.1
You may not be able to get the top-of-the-line sportswear worn by your favorite athletes, but these Olympians know the best way to dress their bodies for top performance. Dressing too warmly is a top, cold weather workout mistake. That's because exercise generates heat and you sweat, making your clothes wet and then cold against your skin. Instead, wear several light layers, which trap insulating air between them, and allow your body to regulate its temperature.
Melissa Hines, professor at Cornell University, explains that different clothing materials used in the Olympics are designed for each specific sport, but also to keep the athlete protected.2 If you look at various skiing uniforms for example, they're form fitting and use materials that will reduce wind resistance.
To mimic this at home, first, put on a thin layer of synthetic material. This pulls sweat away from your body, as opposed to cotton, which keeps it next to skin. Next, add a layer of fleece or wool topped with a waterproof, breathable outer layer.
When it's cold, blood flows to your body's core to keep vital organs warm. That leaves your hands and feet at greater risk of frostbite, which is an injury or destruction of skin and tissue caused by cold. Ward this off by wearing heavier socks (buy exercise shoes a half to one size larger than usual to fit them) and mittens instead of gloves, because they keep hands warmer. For really cold days, wear a thin pair of gloves under mittens lined with wool or fleece.
Seventy percent of total heat lost by your body can come from your head and neck, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.3 So whether you wearing a hat or headband or one of Winter Olympic clothing designer Ralph Lauren's winter caps, it is important to protect your ears from frostbite. And if it's very cold, try wearing a face mask or scarf to warm the air before it enters your lungs.
As soon as a race is over, Olympic athletes know to get out of the cold to avoid injury. Cold temperatures can make your muscles tight and more likely to be injured. So take a little extra time for a warm-up and gentle stretching before you head out the door. When your workout is finished, don't stand around in your damp clothes. Instead, go inside right away and remove them.
Most Olympic athletes wear some form of eye protection, especially when out in the snow, because the glare is not only distracting but can cause damage.2 Don't put your sunscreen and sunglasses away just yet. It's as easy to get sunburned in winter as in summer, especially if you're exercising in snow or high altitudes. Wear a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and has SPF of at least 30. Also, use a lip balm that contains sunscreen and remember to protect your eyes from snow and ice glare with dark glasses or goggles.
This material is intended for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor.
Last updated February 2014
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