Exercising all-year round means you’ll sometimes have to battle the elements if you live in a cold climate. This may have its advantages. Extremely high temperatures can be uncomfortable and equally risky. Raising your endorphin levels and getting a boost of natural light and air in the winter is important for body and mind. However, if you’re exercising outdoors in the cold you must take the proper precautions to ensure your safety. Here are a few tips…
Wrap up right
You may feel that the cold weather makes it easier to deal with the way your body heats up and sweats as you exercise. That’s true in one sense, but it leaves you vulnerable to chills as that sweat dries and, hypothermia or frost-bite can affect your extremities. So choose your clothing carefully.
For body protection, layers are best. You can remove them as you warm up and then put them back on if you cool down. Try to start with a thin, breathable layer such as modern sports fabrics like polypropylene, which draws sweat away from your body, not absorbent ones like cotton. As the sweat dries and cools, cotton puts you at risk of a chill. Next add an insulator like wool or fleece and finish with a weather-resistant top layer. Above all, stay warm and dry inside and out, but make sure you’re not overheating.
Also consider your extremities: hands, feet, head and ears. Gloves, thick socks and a hat are essential. Make sure your footwear is waterproof, has plenty of grip if it’s snowy or icy, and enough room to accommodate extra socks if you’ll need them. Finally, a word on your skin; sunscreen and/or sunglasses don’t seem like the most natural choice when it’s cold, but U.V. rays can be equally strong in the winter if you live in certain parts of the world.
Consider your surroundings
Exercising during the colder months brings with it hazardous weather conditions, so it’s important to maintain your awareness before you head out and take precautions.
If the nights are drawing in and you continue your workouts, make sure you can be seen. There are a variety of products on the market that can help you maximize your visibility. Reflective vests, bands, sashs and lights that you can attach to yourself, not to mention wearing light-coloured clothing. These are particularly important for cyclists, runners or walkers in urban areas. Helmets for cycling, skiing and other high-speed sports are essential. Furthermore, know the rules of the road and don’t take risks. Try to plan your time and your route so you avoid heavy traffic build-up.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast and try to do your workout in the best possible conditions. Getting soaked in the rain dramatically increases your chances of catching chills or hypothermia. Also, think about picking a route that has you returning with your back to the wind, which will decrease your likelihood of catching a chill after sweating.
As with any aspect of staying safe during exercise, sound judgement and common sense are your best friends. Warm up extra carefully and ease into your routine. Your muscles will most likely be much chillier than usual so setting off too hard could cause a strain or other aggravation. Also be aware that fluctuating exercise levels , such as combining running and walking, are less advisable in cold weather, when you slow down and your sweat dries and you risk catching a chill.
Finally, always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Keeping fit is great, but staying safe is essential.
- License: Creative Commons image source
This post was written by runner and physio specialist Micheal, who is currently studying for a physiotherapy masters course in London.