Cold temperatures can put off even the most motivated athletes. But before you throw on the blankets or snuggle by the fire to watch your favorite show, it's important to mention that you don't need to let cold weather kill off your exercise routine.
Cold-weather exercise tips to stay fit, motivated, and warm
Get the right gear ⚙️
The most important thing when exercising is to make sure you’ve dressed appropriately (even more so if it's cold outside). You’ll want clothes that fit you correctly for whatever the activity is, and you’ll want to make sure that you’re prepared for the cold air.
Consider layers that can be taken off and added back later, allowing you to be more comfortable and to-safely balance rising body temperatures with the cold air temperatures.
The layer closest to your skin should be a moisture-wicking material, like lightweight polyester or polypropylene, to take moisture away from your skin to the outer layers, so it can evaporate.
The second layer is the insulating layer, which should be wool or polyester fleece.
The third, outer layer needs to be wind and rain-repellent. When exercising in the cold, this third layer should be removed unless it is raining, snowing, or very windy. If worn during exercise, this layer can trap sweat and not allow for proper evaporation. You can always put the top layer back on during rest times outdoors.
There are also specially made caps and winter hats made to help wick away sweat while retaining heat. Likewise, be sure to wear gloves to protect your hands and fingers!
Protect your skin 🖐️
Winter air isn’t just cold, it’s dry. To keep your skin from drying out with it, drink plenty of water and use moisturising cream or lotion.
Also, something you might not have thought about is the sun. Even if it’s cloudy, UV rays can sunburn in the winter. This happens because snow reflects up to 80% of UV rays, so when there’s snow out, you’re hit by many of the same rays twice.
Before heading out for a winter workout, apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to your face and any other skin that will be exposed. And, don’t forget to protect your eyes with UV-blocking sunglasses.
Check your traction 👟
Winter workouts can get slippery fast if any rain, snow, or ice is involved. It's important to wear proper shoes, designed for snow or ice.
Do a warm-up first 🏃
There’s no better way to start exercising than a good warm-up, no matter what the temperatures are. But it’s especially important to prepare for cold-weather workouts. Dynamic warm-ups increase blood flow and temperature in the muscles to help decrease the risk of injuries.
Be sure to include low-intensity movements that mimic the exercise you’re about to perform. If you're a runner, for instance, a dynamic warm-up might include bodyweight lunges and squats, arm swings, and core activation work, etc.
And be sure not to confuse warming up with static, bend-and-hold stretching. Those stretches are best saved until the end of your workout.
Breathe right 💨
We know it sounds ridiculous, but in cold weather, airway passages tend to narrow, which makes inhalation more difficult.
Breathing in through your nose can help warm and humidify air, but that’s not always feasible when you’re exerting yourself and breathing heavily. Wrapping a bandanna or scarf around your mouth can help trap water vapor in when you breathe out to keep air more moist as you continue to breathe.
Watch out for hypothermia 🥶
Exercising in cold weather increases the risk of hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature). Seek emergency care right away if you develop symptoms such as intense shivering, extreme fatigue, slurred speech, or loss of coordination. Always let someone know when you are going outdoors, and carry a fully-charged cell phone.
To avoid hypothermia and frostbite, move your workout inside if the temperature drops below 0°F or the wind chill reaches -17°F.
Now, you're good to go!