How to Exercise Outside in the Winter
Snow, sleet, wind - it can make sticking to your normal workout schedule a drag (and make you wonder why you don’t live somewhere warmer). But there are ways to prepare for cold weather exercise to keep up your healthy habits all year round.
First of all, why on earth would you want to exercise outside in the winter?
Getting outdoors to run, walk, hike, or cross-country ski during colder months can have great effects on your health. For starters, it can help you stave off depression, because fresh air, sunlight and a change of scenery have a way of revitalizing the soul. It can also boost your immune system, and helps you burn more calories than you would in warmer temperatures because your body works harder to keep warm.
Here are some tips to keep in mind to help you stay safe, healthy and motivated during while exercising outside this winter:
You actually sweat just as much in the winter as you do in summer, making hydration critical even when temperatures drop. We are at just as much risk for dehydration in the winter because we often are not drinking enough of water. Colder temperatures cause us to feel less thirsty and make us think we are sweating less than we are. Not to mention the idea of drinking cold water in frigid conditions does not sound like fun. It can also be caused by dressing too warmly (more on this below), making us sweat more and lose more fluid as a result.
While we have all been told to dress in layers, we sometimes still end up dressing improperly for the weather. A good rule of thumb is to dress so that you start your workout feeling cool, not toasty. You will warm up as you go, so feeling a little underdressed to start is not a bad thing. Also make sure to wear moisture-wicking clothing that is breathable, yet still suitable for the conditions. Make sure to also cover your hands, head and face to prevent exposure during especially cold days.
Protect your skin
Even though it is cold, you still run the risk of getting sunburn. While the sun’s rays are not as strong as in summer, they can still lead to premature aging or even skin cancer. Research shows that snow can reflect up to 80% of UV rays, and at higher altitudes, UV radiation increases by as much as 10 to 12%. An added bonus of sunscreen: it moisturizes your skin and helps protect it against windburn (along with a good lip balm, of course).
If the shoe fits
You will want to be extremely careful hiking, walking, or running if the temperature warms then drops, causing snow on the ground to melt then refreeze, making it deceptively slippery. To accommodate these conditions, the right shoe is key. Choose a waterproof model with deeper tread, like a trail shoe (even if you aren’t walking or running on a trail) to give you more traction on snowy roads. You can also try removable cleats if you are in more rugged terrain. Be sure to order a little bigger size than your summer sneakers to make room for those bulky thermal socks.
Pick a pace and stay there
Take it easy on those first winter cardio workouts by finding a steady pace, even if it is slower than what you are used to doing. Stopping and starting too often can cause you to get chilled, making you more vulnerable to the cold and hypothermia.
Also, keep your strides slower and shorter when navigating snowy or slick terrain. Because we have a tendency to claw the ground with our toes, this can make our calves sore if we do not pace correctly for winter conditions.
Gradually cool down (and don’t try to get warm too quickly, either)
For the same reasons as maintaining a steady pace, we don’t want to suddenly stop at the end of our workout. If we cool down too quickly, it makes us more susceptible to hypothermia and pure misery. Who wants to walk around in a cold wet shirt outside?
After vigorous exercise, try slowing your pace for a few minutes before coming to a stop. Once you make it home, take off extra layers gradually, do some stretching and wait 5 to 10 minutes before showering to avoid shocking your system (which may have other adverse health effects, not to mention it is uncomfortable).
Workouts for Runners
While it may feel too cold to exercise outside in the winter, it is possible when you are set up for success with the right equipment, preparation and plan. Using a combination of cardio and strength equipment will help you be successful. Whether you are just starting to run, or are looking to bring your running to the next level, the Cybex Workout Center will help you get there.