While safety should always be a priority when you exercise, in winter you need to crank the “safety first” mantra up a notch. We’ve enlisted celebrity trainer Blake Worrall-Thompson to talk us through winter workout safety.
Our winters may be pretty mild, but we still need to adjust a few things about the way we exercise in the chilly months. We’ve enlisted Blake Worrall-Thompson, celebrity trainer and founder of Ministry of Wellbeing, to teach us a thing or two about working out in winter.
Wear the right gear
The golden rules for dressing for winter workouts are simple: Layer up and stay as dry as possible. Instead of donning only a heavy jumper over your singlet, wear a couple of layers of clothing that you can peel off as your heart rate goes up. In terms of materials, choose breathable fabrics that draw sweat away from your body — so ditch cotton and go for polypropylene (Nike’s DriFit range is great). After your sweat session is done, change into dry clothes as soon as you can.
If you’re training outdoors against the elements, Worrall-Thompson recommends wearing compression gear, such as SKINS, to keep your body at a comfy temperature.
“If you rug up when you go for a run or train outdoors, within 15 minutes you’re likely to find yourself ripping off your clothes because you’re too hot. SKINS are the best investment you can make for winter training. Put those on and you’re good to go,” he says.
As for shoes, it’s important to pick a sturdy pair that will support your feet and ankles and won’t slip and slide in wet conditions. If you’re a bit of an exercise fiend, Worrall-Thompson recommends replacing your shoes regularly.
“My advice is if you train three to four times a week, you need to buy new shoes every three to four months,” he says.
The best sports stores have sales staff who ask you to run on a treadmill to determine which shoes are right for you.
Don’t skimp on stretching
When the weather’s chilly, it’s even more important to take the time to warm up and cool down properly. Give your body the chance to adjust to a new temperature, rather than putting it in shock by starting off with a sprint and stopping as soon as the squats are done. Worrall-Thompson says the same rules about warming up and stretching apply if you’re exercising indoors or out.
“I take my clients through ‘movement prep’, a group of exercises that helps them warm up the body and stretch, stabilise and mobilise all the joints and muscles at the same time,” he says.
If you’re unsure of what to do, ask your trainer or one of the gym staff to talk you through some good warm up and stretching routines.
Guilty of ditching the gym? Check out no excuses allowed >>
Pump it, baby
Do you want to avoid injuries and stiff joints during winter? As they say, prevention is better than cure. And luckily, the solution to preventing chilly weather-related injuries is simple: Do strength work.
Our PT says knee injuries are a very common problem, and anything that involves running increases the risk. Plus, the fact we have “child-bearing hips” doesn’t help — the wider your hips, the more chance of injury.
“There’s a great saying: ‘Get fit to run, don’t run to get fit.’ That means you should be doing some strength training of the legs and core before you start running. Otherwise, you massively increase your risk of injury,” says Blake.
Not to mention, you’ll tone up faster! There’s nothing worse than being injured, so prep your body for the cooler months with some strength training with weights, free weights, or even your own body weight. If you can, get a personal trainer to write up an easy-to-follow program for you. It’s worth it.
Tune into the temp
In most parts of Australia, the weather shouldn’t stop you from training — it just doesn’t get that cold here. Still, it’s a good idea to gauge the weather because exercising can make you more vulnerable to the cold. If it’s a wet day, make sure you layer up and wear compression gear to keep your core body temperature toasty. If it’s a really windy day, try to do most of your outdoor workout with the wind behind your back. That way, you’re less likely to get a chill when the wind whips your sweaty body.
What if you’re sick?
So, you’ve got the sniffles — what now? The good news is, you can still exercise, but it’s a good idea to take it easier than usual. Worrall-Thompson says, in most cases, it’s fine to train at your normal intensity, just reduce the amount of time.
“The reason for maintaining intensity is that if you lower this, say in your weight sessions, you just train yourself to get weaker. Your aim, even when you’re sick, is to get stronger. And you can still do that in a much shorter session,” he says.
But how do you know if you’re too sick to exercise, full stop? Worrall-Thompson has a top tip: “When you’re still well, take your rest pulse for five days and then average it. Then, whenever you feel like you’re coming down with something, take your pulse again. If it’s three to five beats over, you need to take the day off.”
For more of Blake Worrall-Thompson’s expert advice, check out Wellbeing by Blake.