By Brian Acton
Winter weather doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising in the great outdoors. Outside workouts can be more challenging when temperatures drop and precipitation hits, but that doesn’t mean you need to stay cooped up at home.
Whether you want to go for a run or just take a walk through a winter wonderland, you need to take steps to protect yourself. Here are some winter weather safety tips for outdoor exercise.
- Dress Warm (But Not Too Warm)
You want to dress warm so that you aren’t losing too much body heat as you exercise. However, you don’t want to dress up so much that you’re overheating, especially if you’re running or doing another vigorous activity. You can start with a thin base layer of synthetic fabrics, such as moisture wicking workout gear. Then add an outside layer like a coat, jacket, and pants.
To avoid overheating, you can remove layers as you start to increase the intensity of your exercise and your body warms up. Simply tie your jacket or long sleeve shirt around your waist as you get going.
- Try to Stay Dry
Getting wet can leave you feeling cold and miserable and may increase the risk of hypothermia in freezing conditions. Wear moisture wicking clothes that don’t soak up too much sweat - cotton is probably a bad idea for vigorous exercise. Once you’re done exercising, you should get inside and dry off as soon as you can.
- Wear Bright Colors
Daylight hours are shorter in the winter, and poor visibility from overcast skies or winter precipitation can make it harder for drivers and pedestrians to see you. Make sure to wear brightly colored clothing that helps others see you and reduce the chances of collisions.
If you exercise in the dark, make sure to wear reflective clothing, blinking lights, and other eye-catching gear to increase visibility.
- Get Traction
Winter weather can cause the roads, sidewalks, and trails to get slippery, and icy conditions can lead to a nasty fall. Stay on plowed or salted surfaces to avoid slips; back roads or trails may not be maintained as frequently. Watch out for ice on the roads, and make sure you’re wearing sneakers or boots with plenty of traction.
- Warm Up and Cool Down
A good warmup is important for cold weather workouts. Jumping into intense exercise too quickly can lead to sprains or strains. Make sure to work up to exercise with low intensity movement that increases blood flow and temperature in the muscles.
You should also cool down by gradually tapering off exercise for five to ten minutes at the tail end of your workout.
- Protect Your Head, Hands, and Feet
Cold weather causes your body to direct blood flow to your core. This leaves your head, hands, and feet vulnerable to frostbite. Make sure to protect your hands and feet with gloves and socks, and layer if you need to. Don’t forget a hat to protect your head and ears.
- Remember to Hydrate
Drink water before, during and after your workout. You’re losing fluids just as you would on a hot summer day, and you need to replace those fluids by drinking water.