Baby, It's Cold Outside
By Natalie Moncrief
Okay, okay…so it hasn’t really gotten that cold yet…but winter is coming! Many people find winter a challenging time to keep their fitness program on track. How can you stay motivated to hit your workouts when the mornings are frosty and the evening sun sets early? With a little preplanning and understanding of how to minimize cold weather discomfort and avoid injury, you are sure to embrace the chilly air…even if dressed like Ralphie from A Christmas Story! Here are some tips to keep you moving in the right direction.
Invest More Time in Your Warm-Up – The body takes longer to warm up in cold weather.
Keep Moving – Just as important as proper preparation pre-workout, cooling down post-workout is essential to avoiding muscle stiffness prior to stretching.
Dress Warmly – Although this should be self-evident, it can be easy to underestimate temperatures when you’ve been indoors for many hours ahead of your training. Not to mention, weather can change while you’re out and about. Wear easy-to-remove layers to allow for changes in body temperature. Don’t forget the extremities as they radiate a large amount of heat.
Watch Your Breathing – Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. This gives air a longer route to the lungs and thus more time to be moistened and heated…minimizing that burning or irritation of the throat that is felt when a lot of cold air is inhaled. You can also wear a handkerchief over your nose and mouth.
Don’t Stay Too Long Outside – After training, make sure to get inside and remove any wet or sweaty clothes to avoid the “Open Window” (an immunological gap, most notably within the first half hour after training, where the immune system is vulnerable after exposure).
Day vs Night – Training during the day is not only going to be warmer, but it gives you the best sun exposure. People can tend to have a Vitamin D deficiency during the winter, so if you can get outside during daylight hours it’s a win-win! If you need to train at night make sure to wear proper safety gear (e.g., reflectors and/or a headlamp).
Eat Fruits and Veggies – Fruits and veggies should already be a staple of your nutrition, but during the winter they are especially important to support your immune system.
Stay Hydrated – It can be challenging to drink enough water during the colder seasons, but it is just as necessary as it is during the summer.
Everyone has an individual temperature sensitivity, which should always be taken into account. However, generally speaking, training in cold weather is safe and can even provide some benefits…as long as you plan ahead. The shock you feel when you swap your comforter for the frosty air is unavoidable, but so too will be the rewards you reap for keeping your goals on the horizon.