Stay Active This Winter with these Cold Weather Fitness Tips

01.26.2012 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

AP Photo

By Becky Johnson, Certified Personal Trainer

Of all the seasons, winter presents the most challenges to an active lifestyle.

After what little snow we had on Friday, all I wanted to do was nestle on the couch and watch a movie and it made me think of the long winter we still have ahead of us. After all, January and February are the months we get our coldest weather. While temperatures continue to drop, it’s still important to remain active and maintain our fitness programs. We are humans, not grizzle bears – we don’t hibernate until spring!

Snow doesn’t make it open season for an excuse not to exercise. In fact, there are a bunch of activities that you can only do in the winter: skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, shoveling, cross country skiing, even tubing with the kids. Of course you can always walk or run provided the sidewalks and streets are clear of ice. See, there are multiple exercise options you can participate in regardless of what the outdoor thermometer reads!

All that is required for wintertime workouts is some planning and be sure to employ all safety precautions. Here are some tips for working out outdoors this winter:

*Get warm first. A proper warm up is critical. Cold temperatures can make your muscles tight and therefore prone to injury. It’s important to get them warmed up prior to engaging in intense physical activity.

*Insulate your body. The best approach to dressing for outdoor exercise is with layers. Layering provides the most effective heating method, plus it allows you to remove the top layer if you get too hot. The layer closest to your skin should allow moisture to be wicked away. The top layer should be both wind and water resistant. Try to avoid heavy cotton sweats or tightly woven material that will absorb and retain water.

*No sweat, no problem. Don’t assume that you have to sweat in order to get a good workout. You should avoid sweating that causes the clothing layer closest to your skin to get wet and cause you to be chilled. Try wearing material that will wick the sweat off your skin and monitor your intensity through a heart rate monitor or the Rating of Perceived Exertion.

*Don’t strip when you get inside. While you may be tempted to immediately remove your layers when returning inside, give your body time to adjust. Post exercise hypothermia is possible, which is when your body rapidly loses its heating stores.

*Drink up. Although you may not feel it, you still perspire during cold weather exercise. Dehydration increases your risk of muscle cramps, as well as muscle pulls and tears. Try drinking at least 2 liters of water each day. Drinking an additional liter during exercise provides further protection.

*Lighten up. If possible, it’s best to exercise outdoors during daylight hours. But with shortened days, that can sometimes be difficult to do. If you exercise outdoors when it’s dark, be sure to wear reflective clothing to ensure that you can be seen.
Staying fit during the winter months has numerous benefits – You can avoid gaining weight, have a head start on swimsuit season and avoid losing strength and stamina from inactivity.

Lifelong fitness means keeping up with your exercise program throughout the entire year and there’s no better time to start then today!

Stay Fit and Healthy,

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