With almost 70% of the US currently covered in snow it’s fair to say that the weather outside is frightful. However, before you start embracing the lyrics of Let it Snow!, consider that sitting by the fire, popping corn may be more frightful than delightful. At least as far as your fitness routine is concerned. Though you may be layered in sweatshirts, stockings and scarves, staying active is important no matter what the temperature. “It’s hard to stay motivated in the winter. When temperatures plummet, the last thing we want to do is leave the comfort and warmth of our homes. But winter is not a good excuse to give up our fitness routines,” says Kara Smith, personal trainer and group fitness coordinator at the Loyola Center for Fitness. Yet, there are a lot of great outdoor fitness activities you can only enjoy during the winter months, such as hockey or ice skating, skiing and snowshoeing. And you don’t have to abandon your outdoor running and walking routines, just modify them a little. Here’s some tips for exercising outside in the cold.
- Wear a hat, scarf and gloves.
- Take special care with extremities, especially nose, ears, fingers and toes. Keep them covered to prevent frostbite.
- Moisture is extremely dangerous when exercising in the cold so make sure your shoes are waterproof to keep your feet dry.
- Wear layers. Exercise will generate heat, which may make you feel too warm. Layers allow you the option of taking off piece by piece to keep you at a comfortable temperature.
- Layer correctly. The first layer should be a synthetic material such as polypropylene to keep sweat off your skin. Avoid cotton since it stays wet and can cause your skin to get cold. The next layer should be fleece or wool for insulation. The top layer should be a waterproof, breathable material. Avoid heavy jackets that may cause you to overheat if exercising hard.
- Stay hydrated. In the summer months we think about hydrating, but it’s important in winter, too. Winter is a very dry time of year so your body needs more water even when not sweating. Dehydration causes muscle fatigue and weakness.
- Find an exercise partner and schedule times to workout together.
- Beware of your footing while out on your run. Beneath the snow, there could be a sheet of ice which could cause you to slip. If you want to protect yourself from slipping on unexpected layers of ice, make sure you have suitable footwear with sufficient traction
- Plan your route before you set off. There are various things that you need to keep in mind – the level of traffic, the thickness of the snow, the weather forecast for the next few hours, and distance. In snowy weather, it is sometimes better to stick to the busier roads as breaking trail in heavy snow can be very difficult .
- Consider your safety. Once you have planned your route, tell friends and family where you will be and how long you could be gone for. Carry your mobile phone and be prepared to walk back should you suffer an injury.
- Watch out for traffic. Snow and ice not only affects your movement as a runner, but the movement of vehicles on the road. Because of the treacherous driving conditions, there is an increased rate of road accidents. Always try to position yourself facing the traffic so you can see what’s happening ahead of you.
Remember winter doesn’t last forever so stop hibernating and get out and enjoy what this season has to offer.