How to Exercise When the Weather is Cold
Summer 2021 is almost done for the year and it's about to get cold outside - Brrrrrr!
With rain, ice and snow, it can be difficult to motivate yourself to exercise. But don't worry - this article will show you exactly what exercises are best when the weather is cold.
We'll go over how to stay warm while exercising, as well as some tips for keeping your fingers from getting too stiff.
No matter the season, getting outside for a workout is beneficial for your body, mind and spirit - it doesn't matter what time of year it is, going outside gives us the opportunity to reconnect with nature; to press pause on the world, stop and regain both focus and creativity before stepping back into life.
The most effective heat-conducting substance on Earth is water and therefore the absolute fastest way to give away body heat is to get wet... Water will quickly chill you and make you miserable, as it is a very efficient heat conductor — moving heat away from the region of greatest concentration (your body) to the area with the lowest temperature (cold air outside).
Next to your skin, damp/wet fabric will quickly zap your body heat and will make you feel kind of gross.
In other words, avoid sports wear made from cotton as it soaks up any moisture and hangs onto it for dear life - instead look for synthetic fibres (nylon, polyester; any type of fabric specifically designed to be moisture-wicking) to allow your workout gear to dry quickly to try to maintain that body temp.
Layer it up
Essentially, this is what you need to do:
Start with your inner layer. Depending on how cold it is outside, you'll want to wear a thin base-layer made from some type of moisture wicking fabric (synthetic).
It should be close enough that it doesn't bunch up and create air pockets for any warmth/moisture to escape into - trapping heat inside will help keep you warm while exercising in colder weather.
Over top, put something waterproof but not too thick; wool or even fleece would work well depending on the temperature as long as there's no chance of precipitation where you plan on working out.
You don't need much insulation here because you're creating an extra barrier between yourself and the elements so they can't zap your body heat - also, anything too thick will reduce the ability for sweat to evaporate (the layer underneath still needs to be able to breathe).
And finally... The bonus layer. This is where you'll want a thicker or more specialized fabric like fleece, wool or even a down coat that works better in colder weather; again depending on how cold it's going to be outside.
If there's any snow/rain/ice etc then having something waterproof with an extra amount of padding between yourself and the elements would work best here.
Also, if you're not used to exercising in cold weather this may take some time getting used-to so don't skimp out on this last step because one day when winter rolls around and you're not prepared, you'll be miserable.
And there's your cold-weather workout outfit!
With layers consisting of moisture wicking fabrics as well as something waterproof and then whatever extra insulation/padding is necessary to keep yourself warm during the colder months when exercising outside.
If it's too chilly for anything less than full body coverage (especially if precipitation is involved) consider an indoor workout - or maybe even some other activities such as snowshoeing?
As mentioned above, not only layering your workout gear in colder temperatures is a great way to make sure you can stay warm as you go through your routine.
It also means that it is easier for you to regulate your own temperature by removing items of clothing as and when you need to.
Keep it bright
Black is always in fashion and something that most of us would each for, particularly in the wintertime, however, it is the absolute worst color for absorbing heat in cold weather.
If you're out exercising during colder months, wear something bright - this way if there's ever an emergency or any other type of commotion happening, others will be able to see your location more easily than a dark blob hidden amongst shadows.
The weather is not always perfect. Rain, snow, or overcast skies make you less visible to others.
This also applies whether you're sharing the road with automobile traffic or traveling along a trail or path with other snow sports enthusiasts.
Wear brightly colored clothing and equipment when feasible, as well as reflective gear or blinking lights. Apart from assisting others in seeing you, wearable flashlights are useful since they increase visibility for you, too, allowing you to avoid mistakes and falls.
Be sure you can cover everything
Wear a hat or headband and gloves, or mittens, to keep your extremities from freezing - you are then able to remove them and tuck them in your pocket if you start to feel hot.
Socks that are thick may also aid in the prevention of blisters.
All of these extras should be made of wool or synthetic fibres to keep sweat off your skin.
Men who need additional clothing should consider a good pair of technical briefs, underwear constructed from synthetic fibers, or extra layers as needed.
If your toes start to get chilly, think about the design of your shoes.
Running shoes are specifically designed to allow heat out, but in colder weather, any kind of chilly air will blow straight through.
To help this, you may want to consider shoe covers (available at most good hiking/skiing retailers) or invest in running shoes made to withstand the elements.
Take good care of your skin
Depending on where you live, winter air isn't just going to be cold; it can also be dry.
Alongside making sure you get the recommended 2 litres of water each day, keep both a decent moisturiser and some sort of all-purpose balm to hand that can be applied as and when necessary.
Experts also advise to be vigilant with the application of sunscreen, especially if you are outside in the snow.
A lot of people don't think it necessary to still slathering on the SPF in the winter, however, that would be a mistake!
Being out in the snow, you are effectively spending time being exposed to both the sun's rays (doesn't matter how faint - they're there) AND the reflection cast on the snow, ie. double-whammy!
Be sure to apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to any body part being exposed to the sun (including lips) before any outdoor winter workout. And don't forget your sunglasses for that added bit of protection!
Watch your step
Exercising outdoors can be a bit of a minefield at the best of times when it comes to sustaining injuries. The added factors of rain, sleet, snow and ice can make for a really stressful experience.
To try to avoid major mishaps, stick to surfaces that are well-maintained, ie. salted/gritted.
Outside of the city, stay on plowed surfaces or well-lit areas where you at least have a chance of determining the state of the surface you're planning to run on.
If you live in an area outside of the city that is regularly exposed to ALL of the winter weather, you may want to consider purchasing some spikes for your running shoes as these will help keep you upright and reduce the risk of falls.
Warm it up...
So, this should come as no surprise to anyone that a warm-up would be part of this list - outdoor temps aside, warming up will always be a part of a good exercise plan.
When you're preparing to take your workout outdoors in colder weather, that little bit of extra prep can be crucial in lowering the risk of injury.
All of the same rules apply as at any other time of the year; if you think of your muscles as elastic bands - stretch one of those a little further than it is used to in colder temperatures and - SNAP - you could have sustained a serious injury, all because you skipped your warm-up...
Take a breath
If you've ever gotten your heart rate up when the temperatures drop below freezing, you know it's unlike anything else.
It can actually be dangerous to breathe because of how your body reacts to cold, dry air. Airway passages have a tendency to narrow which is why it makes it feel harder to breathe, sometimes to the point of being almost painful.
There are a couple of ways to try to alleviate this: Breathing through the nose can help, however, this is also entirely dependent on how hard your workout is making you breathe in the first place.
Wearing a scarf (or mask in these COVID-times) over your mouth can help to make it easier to breathe because the fabric warms your skin + the moisture from your breath would help keep air more moist as you exhale and continue breathing.
...cool it down
After a cold-weather workout, your core temp will drop pretty quickly. That does not mean, however, that you can skip the whole cool-down process.
A cool-down is required after any lengthy activity, regardless of the weather. It aids in the removal of by-products and reduces the occurrence of muscular soreness as a result of exercise..
A cool-down helps to maintain a healthy heart and also aids in preventing injury as it allows your muscles time to gradually return back to their pre-exercise state.
It is not recommended that you stop exercising abruptly but rather, slow down the pace of your activity while still maintaining good form as this will further help with blood flow so there's no build up of lactic acid or swelling which can lead to injury.
It's best if you don't neglect these final few minutes because they're beneficial for both mental health (stress relief!) AND physical well being! After all, we wouldn't want our hard work leading us into an unnecessary trip to see Dr. Google... would we?
We hope that these tips will help you stay safe and healthy this winter. Stay tuned for more posts on how to take care of yourself in the cold weather, because we know it’s not always easy!