It’s a great song, but it’s no excuse to skip your workout (sorry!). Now and then we’ll have an exceptionally cold day or an all-out blizzard that may force you to stay inside (in front of the toasty fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book) — but for the most part Frederick County winters aren’t that extreme.
Still, Old Man Winter isn’t a pushover. There are a few important items to remember if you’re heading out into the cold to stick to your workout routine.
First, remember that cold weather adds stress to your body. Even without the exercise, being outside in the cold makes your body work harder. Keep that in mind and be careful not to overdo it. As always, listen to your body. If you’re struggling to keep up with your warm-weather pace, gear back a bit or consider moving your workout indoors until the weather warms up.
Interestingly enough, cold air doesn’t hurt your lungs (your body warms it up to your core temperature before it reaches your lungs). Cold air can, however, trigger an asthma attack. Be prepared and again, listen to your body.
If you’ve been skipping or skimping on your warm-ups, winter is time to get back into a better habit. When it’s cold outside, warming up and stretching are even more important. Take the time (you’ll thank me later).
Now my favorite workout dilemma: what to wear. Okay, so my workout fashion sense is less than perfect nonexistent — I can live with that. The fact is, it actually matters what you wear (to a certain extent) while working out in cold weather. The experts recommend:
- Dress like it’s 20° warmer than your thermometer reads. You may be chilly when you start, but you’ll warm up fast if you’re really working!
- Dress in three layers:
- Layer One: Wicking Shirt – these special fabrics move moisture (a.k.a. sweat) away from your body
- Layer Two: Cotton or Fleece – this layer is for warmth
- Layer Three: Jacket – this layer may vary depending on the elements. If it’s windy, you may want a windbreaker; if it’s raining, you’ll want a layer to keep you dry, etc.
- Wear a hat and gloves. You lose a lot of heat through your head when it’s uncovered. Keep a lid on it. Also, wearing gloves is important because your extremities are more succeptible to the cold. Keep ‘em covered.
- Make sure your shoes have good traction. Whether there’s snow and ice or just a lot of cold, hard concrete along your workout route, it’s important to stay on your feet.
- Consider wearing reflective clothing. It gets harder to exercise during the daylight hours when the daylight hours disappear. Add a reflective arm band or vest, and look out for drivers who may not be able to see you.
Now that you’re all dressed and ready to head out the door, one last winter weather tip: if you’re heading out on a windy day, head into the wind first*. Not only will you be able to end your workout with the wind at your back (which is nice), you’re actually less likely to get chilled with the wind behind you. Imagine the cold wind blowing on your hot, sweaty face — it might be nice for a moment, but not all the way home.
*Yes, I know the wind can be unpredictable and is more than likely to change directions on you, but it’s not a bad idea to try to work into the wind first. Pay attention to the way the wind moves in your neighborhood (or where you work out), it might be more predictable than you think!