Pro Tips For Exercising Safely In the Cold Weather
January has always been a month of hibernation, but the pandemic has no doubt exaggerated this effect. The days are shorter, and the nights have gotten way too long. But before you give into those wintertime blues, consider the perks of supplementing your gym time with some outdoor fitness.
Much as we love seeing you all in CA’s fitness clubs, we also know just how rejuvenating fresh air can be to your body, mind and soul. Exercising outdoors enhances your ability to focus, gives you an energy boost and inspires creativity. However, it also comes with some special considerations…so let’s talk safety first.
And, if you have certain conditions such as heart problems or Raynaud’s disease, check with your doctor first to review any precautions you need based on your condition or your medications.
Include a dynamic warmup
It’s no surprise that wintry weather tends to increase the risk of accidents and falls. But precipitation isn’t the only thing to blame. Our muscles and joints are actually tighter and achier in cold weather. Because they lose heat and contact, they have to work harder than usual and you’ll typically feel less range of motion in your muscles.
It may sound counterintuitive that exercise helps this issue, but it’s true; when you stay active, it generates heat and improves flexibility and the range of joint movement. And thankfully, these risks can be minimized with a proper dynamic warm-up. A vigorous 10-15 minute warm-up is necessary for increasing blood flow and the temperature in the muscles.
Dynamic stretching is all about replicating the movements that you’ll be doing in your workout to prep your body for those motions. This stimulates the nervous system, so that your nerves are more ready for the specific action that you’ll perform. Ultimately, this improves your range of motion and reduces your chance of injury.
So, before heading outdoors, start with low-intensity movements that make sense for your workout. For instance, if you’re about to go for a run, you’ll want to especially focus on warming up the hips, legs and feet. Depending on your preferences, this might mean lunges, forward and lateral leg swings, bent-knee lateral or forward swings, donkey kicks, fire hydrants, figure 4’s, plank knee-to-elbow touches…there’s endless room for variety and creativity.
Dress warm and dry
When it comes to dressing for winter, layers are key.
First layers need to be synthetic fabrics to help absorb the sweat away from skin. Sweaty, damp fabrics close to your skin in colder temperatures is a “no no,” since it reduces your body heat and may cause chills, so avoid cotton.
The next layer should be wool or fleece to hold that extra warmth in. Then, you need a waterproof outer layer to protect you from the elements. The shell layer can be a lightweight windbreaker or vest, or a heavier jacket in extreme temperatures.
Keep your body type and temperature preferences in mind, too. If you’re a small person, you may need more insulation than someone whose heavier.
Protect your extremities
Did you know that people lose most of their body heat through the top of the head? Make sure to grab a hat to retain body heat. Besides your head, your hands and feet are most vulnerable to frostbite, so don’t forget gloves (with the addition of hand-warmers in super chilly weather).
Warm socks are also important. Try long thermal or wool socks to be on the safe side. And while you might be tempted to double up on the socks, this actually constricts blood flow in your feet. Most shoes are designed for one pair of socks, so the additional pressure of another is less than ideal. It’s much better to instead choose one quality pair than squeeze into two.
Most of us are well-aware of the recommendation to drink eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day, but if we’re being honest, this feels a little easier in the heat of the summer. When the temperatures drop, drinking enough water isn’t quite as appealing — but it’s every bit as important. Fluids lubricate your joints, increase your endurance, keep you alert and even prevent excessive elevations in heart rate and body temperature.
Enhance Your Fitness at CA
Wherever you’re at on your fitness journey, CA is here to cheer you on. Learn more about our three fitness clubs, which offer state-of-the-art equipment, group fitness classes and personal training programs, including the option to train virtually from the comfort of your home.