With the new year upon us, new year’s resolutions are in full force. Unfortunately, January isn’t the easiest or best time to start an exercise routine without a gym. Don’t feel like you are alone in not wanting to go running when it is freezing, cold temperatures with rain or snow can discourage even the most hardcore fitness enthusiasts. Here is some information about safety as well as tips to making your winter exercises less horrible.
First off, most people are more than healthy enough to exercise, but the cold temperatures can exacerbate certain issues such as Asthma, heart conditions or Reynaud’s disease so if you are affected by any of those, you should talk to your doctor before going out for a winter run. If you are in proper health to exercise, the first thing to do when planning a cold weather exercise is to check the weather report. Factor in the true temperature, wind, and moisture level with the length of your exercise to plan your clothing. Obviously the wind and moisture can really change what the actual temperature feels like so make sure to check the wind chill. One of the most important aspects of winter exercise safety and comfort is staying dry. If you get wet, the cold weather can become dangerous so if it is raining or heavily snowing, you should probably consider an indoor workout unless you have waterproof gear.
Luckily, here in Olympia, we don’t often see temperatures dropping below the 20s where things can get more dangerous. Frostbite and hypothermia are serious issues to consider and prepare against. The risk of frostbite when the air temperature is over 5 degrees is only 5% so it is not a serious risk but definitely something to consider; Hypothermia is the more serious issue to think about and prepare for. Make sure you cover as much skin as possible; hats and gloves are crucial.
As far as clothing goes, you are going to want to utilize layers so that you can properly deal with the cold as well as the sweat and heat that your body will produce during your workout. Start off with a synthetic base layer next to the skin. Synthetic fabrics like polypropylene will draw the moisture away from your skin and stay dryer, where cotton would hold all the moisture next to your skin and stay wet. Over the base layer, utilize a fleece/wool jacket or pullover to provide some insulation and warmth. For your outer layer, wear a waterproof, breathable jacket to keep out the wind and moisture. Having layers gives you the ability to quickly remove or replace items as your temperature and workout intensity changes. The idea is that you can take of the outer layer during high intensity parts of your exercise to allow for moisture release and then replace the outer layer as you cool back down.
As I mentioned before, hats and gloves are very important; your extremities chill faster than your core. Proper footwear is another aspect to consider when preparing for a winter exercise session. There is usually rain or snow melt present in the winters here so waterproof shoes are a must. Look for shoes that have a little more traction since you could be dealing with slick terrain. Consider getting shoes a half size larger than you are used to to allow for a warmer, thicker sock over a moisture wicking sock. Again, the key to comfort and warmth during cold weather exercise is managing moisture; staying dry is probably the most important aspect to consider.
Once you have prepared yourself and your clothing to handle the elements, make sure you follow all of the basic safety protocols. Make sure you are very visible, winter visibility is typically reduced, especially at night. Hydrate well, just because you don’t feel like you’re sweating as much doesn’t mean you aren’t. If you feel like you are getting numb anywhere or are feeling lightheaded, head home or get inside somewhere to take a break. Overall, if you do your research, dress properly and properly plan for the conditions, winter exercises can be just as rewarding as a summer run and let’s face it, running a couple miles in the snow is so much more hardcore than the same distance on a warm, sunny day.
Check out another blog post about Avoiding Slips and Falls this Winter!