Ditching your workouts because it's cold outside and you'd rather curl up with a cup of cocoa? Instead of letting winter derail your fitness, brave the elements and exercise all season long. Follow these outdoor fitness tips and save the cocoa as an after-exercise treat. You'll thank yourself when shorts and bathing suit season arrives and you've got the bod to sport them!
The cold is no excuse
For many of us, the winter season means limiting the time we spend outdoors and, unfortunately, time we spend exercising. Personal trainer, fitness consultant and founder of WorkoutsForYou.com Lynn Bode says there isn't any specific reasoning for the decision, other than the fact that people use the cold weather as an excuse to abandon their workout routines. "Often people have a feeling that they can just hibernate the winter away," says Bode. "For those that work out outside, the cold becomes an easy excuse for them to get derailed. And even for the inside exercisers, they may not want to even go to the trouble of having to get â€˜out' in the cold just to get from their house to the gym."
Tips to fight winter laziness and enjoy outdoor fitness
The fact is, keeping up with your outdoor winter workouts only requires minimal preparation — as long as you know what to expect. With the help of Bode's expertise, we can all fight winter laziness and actually enjoy working out outdoors.
Outdoor fitness tip #1: Get dressed
Wearing proper clothing is essential to your comfort and safety for outdoor exercise. It is crucial to keep both your core and your extremities warm. "Your core is much easier to keep warm because your body naturally will pull warmth from your extremities because your body sees your core as crucial to survival but understands that a person can survive without their hands or feet," explains Bode. In addition to wearing adequate layers on your torso, also pay close attention to your arms, hands, legs and feet — wear warm gloves and proper socks as well as cover your head when necessary.
Outdoor fitness tip #2: But don't overdress
Bode also warns that it can be dangerous to overdress and cause perspiration. "Perspiration can make an individual much colder because body parts get wet and then the wetness chills from the wind and/or temperature. Wearing a layer next to your skin that helps remove perspiration is always a good idea." Bode suggests wearing silk or polyester for the first layer, and to avoid cotton because it traps moisture. The middle layer might be fleece or wool, and the top layer should block the wind and also allow moisture to escape, like Gore-Tex. (More tips on workout wear to keep you warm.)
Outdoor fitness tip #3: Consider all weather factors
Before you start piling on clothes, Bode advises to take into consideration all the factors that will affect your core body temperature. Factors such as the real temperature, wind chill, wind speed and direction, sun position and precipitation can make the "real feel" temperature lower than the reported temp. "For example, if the temperature is 40 degrees, one might consider that quite warm," says Bode. However, strong winds can cause a wind chill temperature that is closer to 20 degrees," she adds. And if you are hoping for the warmest part of the day to exercise outside, do it while the sun is high.
Outdoor fitness tip #4: Invest in proper footwear
Running shoes may be fine on packed powder but they can be dangerous if roadways or trails are iced over. Bode recommends products like Yaktrax that you can slip on over your sneakers. These as well as footwear made for weather can prevent falls by supplying more traction. If the terrain happens to be deep newly fallen snow or soft powder, your running shoes are worthless — your feet are going to freeze. Consider snowshoeing instead of walking or running or buy a pair of waterproof snowboots and tromp away. Skiiing is always an option, too. (Click for tips on snowshoeing for winter fitness.)
Outdoor fitness tip #5: Listen to your body
Even if you are motivated to weather the winter, tune in to your body. Bode says that conditions that are too cold varies from person to person and that winter workouts outdoors may not be right for all people. She warns that people with certain medical conditions like heart disease may need to avoid certain temperatures because cold can cause vascular constriction. If you have any medical conditions — particularly diabetes, Reynaud's, lupus, fibromyalgia or arthritis — talk to your doctor before heading outdoors to exercise.
Outdoor fitness tip #6: Drink up
Not keeping your body hydrated is a frequent mistake, says Bode. "In the summer, people are perhaps more in-tune with their hydration because they sweat and feel the thirst sensation. In winter you may not feel as thirsty and therefore forget to drink. It is equally as important to hydrate when exercising in the cold as it is when you workout in the summer heat." Keep a bottle of water with you during winter workouts just as you do with hot weather exercise.
Outdoor fitness tip #7: Warm up and cool down
Regardless of the time of year or type of workout, it is important to remember to do a proper warm up and cool down to prevent injuries and hasten recovery. However, spend a few extra minutes warming up for winter exercise. And more important, when you get back indoors after your workout, fight the urge to immediately remove your layers. "Give your body time to adjust," says Bode. "Post exercise hypothermia is possible, which happens when your body rapidly loses its heating stores." As long as you are prepared to weather the winter, you can avoid winter weight gain and stay in top shape. You might even come to love taking a run in the invigorating brisk winter air or trekking up your favorite trail with powdery snowflakes falling around you.