The cold weather is here to stay, but that doesn’t mean that you should abandon all hopes of getting outside. While there are certainly days where it might be too cold to walk or run outdoors, with the proper gear, a cold winter workout is a wonderful way to keep fit and get in some much-needed time in nature.
While we would encourage you all to get outside even when it’s cold there are a few medical conditions that we advise you to not workout in cold temperatures without consulting a doctor first. If you have asthma, heart problems or Raynaud’s disease, check with your doctor to review any special precautions that might be needed before exercising in the cold.
Check the Weather
Before you head out it is important to know the weather that you will be in. In the winter you want to pay attention to the temperature as well as the wind chill.
Knowing when we are at risk of getting frostbite or hypothermia is important for staying safe during the winter months.
As a rule, if the air temp is about 5 degrees F there is less than a 5% risk of frostbite. At temperatures below minus 18 F frostbite can occur on exposed skin in 30 minutes or less.
If the temperature is below zero F or the wind chill is extreme, it is best to complete your workout inside to avoid risk of frostbite.
Getting wet makes you more vulnerable to the cold. And if you get saturated from snow or sleet, you may not be able to keep your core body temperature high enough and may be in danger of hypothermia.
When there’s cold weather outside it is important to dress in layers as we often overestimate how warm we will get once we start moving. In the cold, we tend to warm up as soon as we start to sweat, but the process of sweat evaporation can also leave us feeling chilled. If you wear layers, you can adjust when you start to overheat and if you find yourself cold, you can put the layers back on.
It is essential that any base layers that are next to your skin are made of synthetic materials which draw sweat away from the body. Avoid cotton as it will hold the sweat and chill you quickly. Fleece or wool make a great second layer and if it is going to be snowy out, a third waterproof layer is an excellent idea.
We suggest that you experiment as well as keep a journal so that you know what clothes work at what temperatures.
Your head, hands, feet and ears are very important to protect in the cold. Make sure that you have a good pair of gloves, socks and a hat or headband to protect your ears. When you start to heat up, you can remove these layers, but be cautious as your extremities are most susceptible to frost bite.
Night and Day
Shorter days mean less visibility in the dark. If you are out in the dark, make sure that you wear reflective clothing, a headlamp and blinking lights are also a good idea. During the day avoiding getting a sun burn is important no matter how cold the thermometer reads. Even when the temps drop, the sun can still be very strong, so applying a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays is needed to avoid getting a burn.
We often neglect hydration when it is cold out. It can be easy to not feel thirsty, but it is still important to stay hydrated when you are engaged in strenuous activity. Make sure that if you are exercising for over 30 minutes, you are replenishing your fluids.
Don’t let the cold weather stop you in your tracks. Rather be smart and safe and get outside – there is nothing as beautiful as a run or walk during a fresh snow fall.