As winter approaches, the days grow shorter and many parts of the country will soon be enveloped in snow and ice. However, don’t let Mother Nature chase you indoors for the next few months—instead get outside and enjoy these nice, crisp winter days. Just remember to take a few precautions to stay safe during winter exercise with these eight smart tips.
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1. See and be seen
With darkness arriving earlier during the winter, chances are you’ll spend at least some of your time working out in poor lighting. This makes it difficult for you to see, but even more difficult for passing motorists to see you. Always wear some sort of reflective gear when exercising before or after sunset. You can go with a full-fledged reflective belt, or opt for clothing with reflective strips sewn in. Meanwhile, purchase an affordable headlamp to light the way and allow you to see what you’re doing.
2. Wear proper footwear
Walking or running on snow and ice can put you in dicey situations, greatly increasing your odds of falling and ending up with anything from a bruised ego to a broken bone. Choose shoes with good traction to increase your odds of staying upright. If your shoes just don’t cut it, clip on a set of Yak Tracks, which can be easily attached to your shoes for added traction and stability. In addition to adequate tread, make sure your shoes offer protection for the rest of your foot. The last thing you want is snow packed in around your ankles, or soaked and cold feet.
3. Take the time to warm up
Exercising with cold muscles is never a good idea, especially when the air temperature is hovering around freezing. Before heading out into the cold, spend 5-10 minutes warming up inside. Once you begin your workout, give your body short breaks every few minutes to gradually adjust to the conditions.
4. Dress in layers
Layers are a must when you’re exercising in cold weather, beginning with a moisture-wicking base layer. It takes a while for your body to warm up, but once it does you’ll need to have the ability to shed an outer layer. Wearing too much will make you sweat more, and we all know that sweat and cold do not go well together. As your workout winds down and your body temperature begins to drop back to normal, put the extra layers back on before you develop a chill.
5. Protect your extremities
Hats, gloves, warm socks, and scarves are a must when exercising in cold weather. Long exposure to the cold increases your risk of frostbite, especially in areas with reduced blood flow (like your ears, toes and fingers).
6. Protect your lungs
If you suffer from asthma, chronic bronchitis or other respiratory issues, exercising in cold weather may not be the best idea. The cold air further restricts your respiratory passages, making it harder to breathe. In fact, even if you have healthy lungs, you should consider a scarf or mask when the weather is below freezing to help warm the air before you fully inhale. Always check with your doctor first, to make sure cold weather exercise is safe for you.
7. Don’t forget to hydrate
When you’re cold, it’s pretty easy to overlook adequate hydration. However, even when your body is relatively cool from the winter air, your muscles are producing a significant amount of heat that eventually makes its way to the surface of your body as sweat. Granted, you don’t sweat near as much in the winter as you do during those hot summer months, but you still need to drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout—even if you don’t feel thirsty.
8. Know your heart health
Exercising in cold weather can increase your risk of a heart attack if you already suffer from cardiovascular problems. The cold stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which increases heart rate and blood pressure. Add this to the work increase already occurring due to the stress of exercise, and your cardiovascular system is under a tremendous amount of pressure. Play it safe and talk to your doctor prior to exercising in the cold. If you plan on starting an exercise routine during the winter months, it could be best to do so indoors.