The winter months might appear daunting but you can actually find a lot of success exercising and running in the cold.
How do you run and exercise in the cold? If done properly you’ll quickly reach new fitness goals. Working out in the cold will require extra knowledge of hydration, stretching, and having the proper equipment. What might have seemed daunting initially has the potential to become your new favorite time to workout.
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Take Advantage of Weather Apps
If you are like me one of the first things I check every morning is the weather on my phone. Knowing the temperature helps you properly prepare for your workout. Whether it’s hot or cold.
When it comes to working out in the cold you need to be aware of a few factors. Check your favorite weather app for the following key factors.
- What’s the current temperature?
- What’s the current wind chill?
- Is it icy on the roads?
- Is it misty or raining?
Looking at the actual temperature is important but it’s not enough when knowing if it’s safe to run in the cold. You need to know wind chill.
The wind chill has the potential to be more dangerous than freezing temperatures. Even multiple layers of clothing can’t protect you from severe wind chill.
Wind chill has the ability to penetrate through your clothing and will cause complications.
Between the temperature and wind chill, you’ll be able to accurately determine if it’s safe to exercise outside.
A good rule of thumb is if the temperature has dropped below 20 degrees Fahrenheit it might be best to stay indoors. Frostbite is a real concern when the temperature is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also, knowing if there is snow or ice on the ground is vital. If the forecast is calling for ice please be cautious.
Slipping on ice is a major concern when exercising in the cold. You might not be able to see the ice and get injured. Use extra caution and be vigilant of any icy terrain.
Running while it’s raining can also cause complications. The wetter a person gets the harder it becomes to stay warm.
Use your best judgment when looking at the weather. It might be best to do a simple workout inside to protect yourself from extreme conditions.
Popular Mechanics post on The 7 Best Weather Apps for iPhone and Android.
Dress For Success with Layers
One of your most important tools when it comes to exercising in the cold is having the proper clothing.
Not having the right clothing during cold weather can lead to injury, frostbite, and hyperthermia.
Beginning from the top it’s best to wear a hat. Whether it’s a beanie, hat, hood, or even a scarf always keep your head warm.
You’ll lose more heat from your head than anywhere else. This is why it’s so vital to keep your head warm.
Next, properly protect your face. One of the first issues you’ll notice when running in the cold is drainage from your eyes and nose.
Not addressing this issue can cause a lot of frustration and a desire to quit exercising in the cold.
To protect your eyes consider getting a pair of clear exercising glasses. For your nose, it would be ideal to wear a scarf.
Moving down to your torso and legs it’s best to wear layered light clothing.
Most people want to wear heavy cotton clothing but this can lead to a lot of issues. Mainly capturing all your sweat and keeping it close to your body.
This can lead to chills and further complications.
It’s best to layer lighter clothes. Lighter clothes breathe easier allowing your sweat to escape.
Wearing layers gives you the freedom to remove and add clothing based on how you’re feeling.
Like your head, not properly protecting your hands and fingers can lead to frostbite. Simply wearing a pair of gloves can quickly resolve this issue.
The last piece of clothing you’ll need is proper shoes.
You can find a variety of running shoes, but to run in the cold it would help to buy a pair that’s a size too big.
By getting a pair that’s slightly bigger you’re making it easier to wear the proper socks. Having thermal socks will greatly protect your toes.
With the proper clothing, you’ll be able to exercise longer in a variety of elements.
Stretch and Hydrate Before Heading Out
Never neglect the importance of stretching. Stretching before working out in the cold will help you avoid injury and serious complications.
Your muscles will take longer to warm up in the cold. That’s why it’s best to start with a few simple stretches.
It will help get your blood flowing before you take your first step.
To some, it might sound strange but stay hydrated during your winter run.
While it might be difficult to drink cold water before running it’s best for your health. It’s just as easy to get dehydrated exercising in the cold.
Your body will sweat even in cold temperatures. Do not neglect proper hydration, even in cold weather.
Protection & Safety
Wearing sunscreen is also key to your success when exercising in the winter. It can be very cold but the sun will still be a threat to your skin.
A common complaint about the winter months is the shorter days. Before you know it the sun will begin to set by 5 pm.
For many people exercising after work is their best option. If you decide to run while it’s dark please take extra precautions.
Stay on sidewalks, run in brightly lit places, and wear reflective clothing.
When there is a strong wind it’s best to begin your workout running directly into the wind. This is when your body will be freshest and can better handle the condition.
By the time you’re ending your routine hopefully, the wind will be at your back. This makes it easier to handle any extreme wind conditions.
It’s important to also be aware of frostbite and hypothermia.
Frostbite is a very dangerous skin condition that can affect any exposed skin. This is why layers are key to finding success while exercising in cold weather.
Be aware of any numbing or stinging sensations. These are the two easiest signs to detect frostbite.
If you suspect you might be suffering from frostbite immediately get into a warmer climate.
Hypothermia is a condition that can affect anyone but older people and children are especially in danger.
Hypothermia is a condition when your body temperature drops too low. The signs include slurred speech, shivering, and dizziness.
Immediately seek medical attention if you suspect you might have hypothermia.
Is Running in the Cold for Me?
Running in the cold can be very beneficial. Any exercise, in general, is very good!
During the winter months, there is a high probability that weight gain is an issue with all the holidays, gatherings and parties.
Between the various holidays and general desire to stay indoors weight gain can affect a variety of people.
Staying fit and not losing your fitness goals will be vital to maintaining your healthy lifestyle during the winter months.
Before beginning your winter run you need to judge whether your body can handle the strains of the cold weather.
If you have a cold or a cough it’s best to stay indoors. Let your body rest.
The strain wind chill can put on your lungs and throat can be detrimental to your overall health. What started as a cold could quickly become something more serious.
When you exercise in the cold you’ll breathe a lot of cold air. Cold air can aggravate an existing cough you might have.
Studies have shown that exercising outside will increase your blood pressure and heart rate. Your body is trying to counterbalance for extreme conditions.
For someone with preconditioned heart complications, the extra strain could be very dangerous. Before beginning any serious exercising in the cold it’s best to consult with your doctor.
Don’t Stop Training
These tips and tricks were designed to provide you with encouragement. Cold weather is difficult enough but it doesn’t have to prevent you from getting exercise.
Simply pay attention, get the right equipment, and most importantly have fun and be safe.
Credits: Soundtrack “Eternity” provided by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com); Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/