Winter. For some it’s the wonderland they have been looking forward to all year. For others, it's the time period to remind themselves how wonderful summer is, and that they will never ever complain about the heat again (or at least until July). Whatever your opinion is about this frosty time of year, one thing is a constant - your exercise routine cannot go into hibernation mode.
Don't forget to prioritize your health from the outside in. I cannot express enough the importance of never going into the elements under-planned - whether it's hot or cold out.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED "COLD WEATHER"?
To many, this is a personal answer based on your physiology and what you are used to. I am the type of person who reaches for my sweater when the temperature drops below 70, you might be part penguin and a brisk 58 degree day may sound perfect to you. That being said, it's a good rule of thumb to take precautions as the temperatures dip below 50 degrees.
7 THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN EXERCISING THIS WINTER:
1 - Dress Appropriately
Always Dress in Layers. Your body temperature rises as you exercise (even in the cold). It’s better to shed layers as your body temperature rises, versus being stuck in an all or nothing situation. The amount of layers depends on how low that temperatures goes on the thermometer.
NEVER wear cotton. Cotton absorbs moisture and holds it against your skin. This can be very dangerous and speed up the progression of hypothermia.
Dress for the elements. Wear a windbreaker for windy weather. Synthetic materials to keep moisture off of your skin (yes, you still sweat in cold weather). Water resistant materials to keep cold rain and even snow from seeping in and lowering your body temperature.
Protect your head, nose, ears, hands and/or feet. Depending how cold it is outside, you may not necessarily cover everything on this list, so use your discretion wisely. These areas are most susceptible to getting frostbite.
2 - Exercise in the middle of the day
Anytime from around 10:00am to 3:00pm is going to be the warmest part of the day. If you are able to adjust your schedule accordingly, aim for this timeframe.
3 - Complete a longer warm-up period
Your body will be fighting against its natural cold weather response to redistribute some blood away from your core (to keep your vital organs warm) and out to your extremities so that your skeletal muscles can get adequate blood supply. A longer warm-up coaxes that blood supply away from your core safely, and you are slowly increasing your body temperature as you go along, so by the time you reach peak exercise mode, your entire body will be warm and content. Instead of a 5 minute warm-up, stretch it into more of an 8-10 minute warm up.
4 - Check the temperature AND wind chill
Take a look at this wind chill graph by the National Weather Service to see what the actual temperature is that you might be getting into.
The lower both these numbers are, the quicker you lose body heat (if you aren’t dressed appropriately). If it’s 40 degrees out, with a 10mph wind speed - your body will not get the memo that it's a breezy 40 degrees out. It’s going to think that it’s more like 34 degrees outside.
5 - Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia
Hypothermia: shivering, diminished coordination, fatigue or drowsiness and impaired cognitive function (to name a few.) Frostbite: skin feels cold, numb and sometimes has a ‘prickly’ feeling. The skin looks yellow or even bluish in color, and the texture of your flesh may feel frozen. There is a safe way to reverse some of these effects if you take precautions immediately. Learn more about that here.
6 - Drink Plenty of Water
Even when it’s cold out, you will still lose fluid while exercising (even if you aren’t sweating as much). The sensation of thirst may not be as strong in the winter versus summer months, but you still need to keep up your hydration levels.
7 - Remember sun protection
It might seem weird to think about - but the sun still shines in the winter, plus if you are in an area that receives constant snow, you get a second dose of UV radiation that is bouncing off of the bright white surface. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a protective hat.
Of course you can avoid all of this by just exercising indoors, where temperature is controlled at your fingertips, and you can save those out door activities for warmer weather.
Stay safe and warm!