Frosty weather is well upon us and this is seemingly the time that most well-devoted fitness enthusiasts admit falling short on their exercise commitment. Is it the cold weather? Perhaps the shorter amount of daylight? Or, perhaps it is just less than optimal conditions outside that keep you pent up indoors. Regardless of the reason for the lack of activity, there are some tips and exercise do’s and dont’s to help get you safely (and enjoyably) through the winter season. Heck, you may even find that you love participating in those cold-weathered activities!
It’s Cool To Train In The Cold…
There really are some health benefits to training in the cold weather. Here are 5 that we all can get excited about:
1. You burn more calories simply because your body is working harder in an environment it is not used to training in, your metabolism revs up and your body burns more calories and fat to produce energy for your workout. Now who doesn’t like that!
2. By challenging yourself in the cold weather, you are strengthening your heart, lungs and circulatory system, thereby improving your overall health and improving your endurance performance.
3. Working out in the winter can help fight SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Being outside and taking in more sun during the daylight hours helps keep your mind sharp and relieves depression. It also increases your body’s manufacturing of vitamin D.
4. Cold weather can reduce inflammation. There’s a reason putting ice on an injury works. That drop in temperature reduces inflammation in a sprained ankle or sore knee. The theory works on a much grander scale, too — cold temperatures can reduce inflammation and pain all over.
5. It’s invigorating, exciting and energizing. This is my personal favorite benefit of cold weather exercising. There’s nothing like experiencing the crispness of the outdoors and adding that rosy glow to your cheeks after an intense outdoor winter workout. Plus, there is something surreal about challenging your workout in a totally different way!
Cover It Up!
The first line of defense against cold exposure is dressing in layers that are appropriate for the conditions. Layers should include a combination of clothing (base, mid and outer) that help regulate your temperature and keep you warm and dry. This does not just mean covering up your body… I mean, baby, it’s cold outside!
1. Layer your body with many layers of sweat-wicking clothing:
-Use a lightweight non-cotton material to wick moisture away from your skin. Avoiding heavy cotton materials will decrease the absorption of sweat and wetness, therefore decreasing your risk of hypothermia.
-Add another layer or two of wool or fleece for insulating warmth.
-Top it off with a lightweight, water-repellant and wind-resistant material
2. Your head should be covered while exercising in the cold, because heat loss from the head and neck may be as much as 50 percent of the total heat being lost by your body.
3. Cover your face with a mask or scarf when the temperature is below freezing to avoid frostbite. This can also help warm the air a bit before entering your lungs.
4. Wear gloves to protect your fingers from frostbite. Try layering thin gloves with heavier mittens. It is a good idea so you can remove a layer if needed without exposing your bare skin to the frigid air.
1. Check the temperature and the forecast. Health risks increase when the combined temperature and wind chill falls below -20°F.
2. Wear sturdy footwear with good traction to prevent slips and falls. If it is icy and heavy snows, reconsider an indoor workout instead.
3. Wear light and/or reflective clothing as it gets darker sooner during the winter months. Make sure that drivers can see you!
4. Tell someone what route you’re taking, and when to expect your return, just in case something goes wrong. Black ice or extreme coldness can make your workout dangerous. Take a cell phone just in case you need to call someone in case of an emergency.
Choose Your Hydration Wisely!
1. Drink plenty of fluids. Staying properly hydrated is just as important during cold weather as during hot weather. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, drink before, during and after your workout. Dehydration can be masked by cold weather.
2. Avoid consuming alcohol or beverages containing caffeine, since these can increase your dehydration. Alcohol dilates blood vessels, increases heat loss, and impairs judgment.
Cold Weather Play
1. Warm up wisely! Before any workout, walk around, jog in place, or perform some dynamic stretching (remember that from our stretching series) indoors for five minutes. When you head out, give your body time to adjust to the conditions by taking 30-second breaks every few minutes for the first 10 minutes.
2. Be wise to your exertion. Over exertion can lead to cold weather trouble by decreasing your ability to breath optimally and increasing physical injury risk.
3. Cool it down slowly. To avoid getting too chilled during your cooldown, keep it brief: Slow your pace for three to four minutes, then go inside to stretch. Take off extra layers and keep moving for another five to 10 minutes before showering.
So, there you have it. No excuses to not get your butt out there and keep your workout in high gear, learn a new cold-weather exercise, or just enjoy the great outdoors (and a great sweat)!
Take your next workout outside. Go for a walk, or a jog, or even strengthen with a bodyweight program. Remember my latest Facebook “Exercise Of The Week” post? This would be a perfect chance to put that into action!
Here is a recap of that workout or you can find it at http://www.facebook.com/tansyrodgers :
Perform 10 reps of each without a break in between
Push ups with alternating knee tucks (regular, knees, or elevated)
Sidestepping planks (perform plank and sidestep with hand and foot walking to the side)
Side planks (hold for 5-15 seconds and perform on both sides)
Inverted bar row
Rest 1-2 minutes
Repeat 3-4 times