Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Outdoor Winter Workouts
Cold, wet and windy weather doesn’t have to mean putting your outdoor workout routine in the deep freeze. Follow these simple tips to stay active and fit right through the winter months.
Get in the chill zone. As the temperatures dip, your body needs more time to adjust to the climate. When you first begin your outdoor workouts, allow yourself plenty of time for warm-up and lower your expectations for the workout ahead. Don’t try to set any personal records—once your body gets used to the winter conditions, you can up the ante and go full-speed.
Buddy up. The cold weather not only affects our bodies—it also has a tendency to affect our minds and lower our motivation. It’s much easier to stay indoors where it’s warm and toasty rather than brave the elements for a workout. Find a fitness friend to hold you accountable or join a running (or other outdoor sport) group that holds regularly scheduled training sessions, no matter rain, cold or shine.
Drink it in. Just because the temperatures may cold enough to freeze water doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drink any. As a matter of fact, staying amply hydrated during winter workouts is as important as it is any other time of the year. We all have the tendency to think we don’t sweat or lose fluid as much in the winter because we don’t “feel” as sweaty as we might during warmer weather. Don’t let that give you a false sense of security. Drink up before, during and after your workout.
Layer it on. Before you head out into the cold, be sure to dress in layers. First, start with a moisture-wicking base. Top that off with a good thermal, and add a protective outer layer as needed (depending on the weather) to shield against moisture and wind. If you get too hot or start to sweat profusely, simply remove a layer or two until your body is comfortable. You can always put a layer back on if you get too cold. Don’t forget the sunscreen, either. Yes, the sun’s UV rays are weaker in the winter, but they can reflect off snowy or wet surfaces, which intensifies their strength and effect.
Get toasty fast. Don’t sit around in your cold, wet sweaty workout clothes. If you do, you’re more likely to get sick, especially if you just exercised in icy, rainy or snowy conditions. Changing into dry clothes as soon as possible is a healthy habit that will keep your muscles loose and warm.
Know before you go. Working out in extreme conditions can be counterproductive. Know when to call it quits or take your workouts indoors. You don’t have to act like a world-class athlete to prove your cold-weather mettle. Be smart. Know the weather and your own limitations. If conditions outside are extreme—temps and wind chills well below freezing—hit the gym, exercise at home or just skip a day altogether. Besides, a day of rest will only do your mind, body and health some good.