When the weather is frightful, exercise outside may not be so delightful. As the sun sinks below the horizon earlier and earlier in the late fall and winter months, getting motivated to exercise can be difficult.
Once you do get outside, there are some important things to consider to stay safe while exercising in the winter:
- Acclimate yourself, especially if you are exercising on vacation. Going from a cold, windy place to a hot, humid place, even for just a week, can mean stress on the body. Adapt your workout and be mindful of the signals your body is sending.
- Stay dry by wearing layers of clothes with wicking properties. Wet skin increases your chances of hypothermia, so it is important to shed layers as you begin to perspire. Clothing made of fabric that wicks moisture while retaining heat (like polypropylene and wool) also helps keep you warm and comfortable.
- Pay attention to footing, weather conditions, and lighting. A jog in the park can quickly become disastrous if there are icy patches or packed snow; wear jogging shoes with good traction and watch where you put your feet. Remember to also wear clothing that is light and reflective when exercising after dark, and be mindful of the early sunset when heading out.
- Cover your head. As much as 50% of your body’s warmth is lost from your head, so put a lid on it!
- Cover your mouth, especially if you are prone to respiratory issues like asthma. Cold air can trigger difficulty in the respiratory tract, but covering your mouth helps heat the air coming into your body.
- Stay hydrated! Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Air in the winter months is typically drier than the summer (depending on region), and dehydration can occur just as easily when it is cold. Follow the same hydration guidelines you would follow during other times of the year.
- Avoid alcohol. During this time of merry-making and celebration, remember to keep consumption moderate and not to use alcohol before or during exercise. Alcohol increases your risk of dehydration and hypothermia and impairs judgment—not a good combination when exercising in the winter months!
- Finally, if it’s just too cold, snowy, or windy to exercise outside, consider adding a new class or a different type of exercise (such as yoga, swimming in an indoor pool, or Zumba) to your routine. Variety in your exercise helps keep you active, engaged, and interested; it also prevents burnout and strain to muscles by varying the type of work they do. Plus, it’s a great way to meet new people who might also be looking for ways to shake things up.
Winter is no reason to stop exercising. What changes do you make to your exercise plan in the colder months?
Image by Dave Herholz via Flickr