As the weather cools down and the days get shorter, many of us start to experience a lack of motivation when it comes to keeping up with our outdoor exercise routine. You know the excuses: “It’s cold! It’s dark! It feels later than it really is!” I know, I know – but pounding the pavement on a treadmill for miles at a time often isn't a thought that gets many people motivated either. Keep yourself exercising in cold weather this winter by using these 8 tips to help you stay warm and safe!
1) Stay bright. The days are shorter in the winter, meaning there are more times you may be exercising in the dark. If you are, be sure to wear reflective clothing. This will help cars to see you as they drive past. Also consider wearing a headlight so you can see any obstacles ahead of you and avoid injuries.
2) Skip cotton. Cotton soaks in sweat and doesn’t dry quickly, which can cause you to get very chilly on a long run or walk in the winter! Go for synthetic sweat wicking materials as a base layer.
3) Speaking of layers – use them! When you exercise, you get hot and sweaty. But when that sweat starts to cool, you get cold again. It’s best to wear a few layers that you can remove and put back on as needed for your body. Think a base technical shirt, followed by a warm insulating layer like fleece, and topped with a waterproof layer to protect you if it’s raining/snowing. If you get warm, you can just take a layer off and tie it around your waist.
4) If you’re hot already, take off some clothing. As mentioned above, exercise produces heat. If you’re hot or starting to sweat walking out the door, you probably have too much clothing on. Skip the Northface or down vest, and go with a couple well thought out comfortable layers. You should probably feel slightly chilly (but not freezing) when you start, and you’ll warm up to a comfortable level as you continue.
5) Don’t forget about your head and hands. A hat and gloves can go a long way in helping you to feel warmer and more comfortable when exercising in cold weather, and protects the areas vulnerable to cold sensitivity like your ears and fingers. If you're snowboarding or skiing, there are great specialty gloves available. If you're running, you can buy the fancier running gloves/hats/headbands from the store, or you can be cheap like me and grab a bunch of basic dollar hat and glove combos on Black Friday (Target or Kohls always has these!) that you alternate and toss in the wash after each run. In addition to sometimes wearing a winter hat, I also wear old school headphones which end up keeping your ears a whole lot warmer than regular ones. With my gloves and headphones, I might look like Minnie Mouse stepping out from the 1980s when I run, but who cares? :)
6) Breathe warmer/moister air. Pulling a thermal turtleneck over your mouth, wearing a balaclava, or wrapping a scarf around your mouth can help to warm air before it travels into your lungs. Because you exhale moisture, when you inhale again into the scarf or turtleneck it also helps to moisten the air. Dry, cold air can irritate asthma symptoms in some people, so using this method may help them feel more comfortable exercising outside. If breathing cold or dry air doesn't bother you, then don't worry about this tip!
7) Wear sunscreen. You can still get sun damage in the winter, particularly when there’s snow on the ground. Did you know that snow reflects harmful rays from the sun? You can get almost double the UV exposure when exercising on a winter day with fresh snow than when there’s no snow on the ground.
8) Skip the extremes. Just like you’d avoid exercising outside on a 105 degree day, you also want to avoid outdoor exercise during winter weather extremes to reduce your risk of hypothermia. If it’s very cold with a serious wind chill, head for the gym instead of the sidewalk. Along the same lines, even mild temperatures like a 40 degree day can be risky if combined with heavy rain over a long period of time, as being wet in cold temperatures for many hours can increase your risk of hypothermia.
Do you like to exercise outside in the winter, or do you head to the gym at the first snowflake? Share with us in the comments!