I know it isn’t officially winter quite yet, but it’s feeling more and more like it every day!
With winter comes cooler (rather, FREEZING) temps, ice, longer bouts of darkness, and yes…the “s” word…snow. Last week’s blog touched on the changing seasons and their negative influence on our motivation to exercise and maintenance of a healthy lifestyle in general. What if you are an outdoor exerciser or can’t stand being indoors all winter?
When I am exercising, namely running, I struggle being indoors on a treadmill. I’d much rather get the fresh air and have a change of surroundings, but this can be challenging when the elements outdoors are less than ideal. It is entirely possible to exercise outdoors in the winter and early spring, but takes a bit of planning to ensure a safe and efficient workout session. (Don’t forget that shoveling, sledding, snow-shoeing, and skiing are ALL exercise too!)
When exercising in the dark, safety is still an absolute must. It’s important to wear reflective, bright, colored gear so that you are easily visible to cars and passers-by. I wear a blinking band on my arm and I have witnessed a lot of night exercisers wearing head lamps and other blinking and light-up gear. Carry your water and hydrate as you normally would and let someone know your route and estimated return time. Another option is to carry your cell phone in case you run into problems along the way. Safety first!
Cooler temps mean layering is a must when venturing outdoors for a walk, bike ride, or run. There are various companies that promote their ‘cold weather gear’ that help keep you warm outdoors while exercising. Adding the extra, loose-fitting layers will help you to avoid injuries and will keep you comfortable. I try to avoid cotton as much as possible as a base layer as it holds onto moisture from sweat a lot more than a ‘tech’ material that is moisture-wicking. When you are wet, your body temperature drops faster, so be aware of that when you start to sweat! Remember to cover your neck and face, especially when it is extra frigid out. Although, sometimes I feel like I spend more time putting on layers than actually exercising!
Injury prevention is still as important in the cooler months. Warm ups and cool downs are vital and can be done indoors before and after heading outdoors. Make sure to dress warm enough and keep in mind your surroundings if there is snow or ice on the ground. Black ice becomes a real threat and can be dangerous if you step on it expectantly (been there, done that—embarrassing, especially on Main Street in Fort Atkinson).
Last but not least, remember to keep your face and lips protected. I know I forget in the winter months about the sun and potential for sun burn, but the rays can reflect off the snow and road and give you a ‘summer glow’ without the summer. Remember your sunscreen and lip balm!
It is entirely possible to exercise in the colder months outdoors with a bit of preparedness. Use your best judgment and common sense when venturing outside, and don’t forget to have fun!