This time of year, the cold weather and grey days can make you feel like you'd rather binge watch "Making a Murder" on Netflix, instead of killing your workout. You don't have to let cold weather put an end to exercise though. Here are some tips for exercising during cold weather.
Experts say pretty much anyway can exercise safely during cold weather. If you have certain conditions, like asthma, heart problems or Raynaud's disease, you check with your doctor before you work out in cold weather. Your doctor can also advise you if your medications might affect your workout.
Plan around conditions and wind chill
Monday, it was snowing and blowing outside in Omaha. Not the best for an outside jog. Before heading out, check the forecast for WHEN you'll be outside. Temperature, wind and moisture, along with the length of time that you'll be outside, are considerations for a safe cold-weather workout. The combination of wind and cold make up the wind chill index, which is commonly included in winter weather forecasts. Wind chill extremes can make exercising outdoors unsafe even if you dress warmly. The wind can penetrate your clothes and remove the insulating layer of warm air that surrounds your body making you vulnerable to frostbite.
Know what frostbite and hypothermia look like
Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite is most common on exposed skin, such as your cheeks, nose and ears, but it can also occur on hands and feet. Early warning signs include numbness, loss of feeling or a stinging sensation. If you suspect frostbite, get out of the cold immediately and slowly warm the affected area. Don't rub it, that can damage your skin. If numbness continues, call 911. Hypothermia is abnormally low body temperature. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Exercising in cold, rainy weather increases the risk of hypothermia, as does being an older adult. Hypothermia signs and symptoms include intense shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination and fatigue. Seek emergency help right away for possible hypothermia.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when exercising in cold weather is to dress too warmly. Exercise generates a considerable amount of heat - enough to make you feel like it's much warmer than it really is. The evaporation of sweat, however, can make you lose heat from your body and feel chilled. Dress in layers that you can remove as soon as you start to sweat and then put back on as needed. Your first layer should always be a thin layer of synthetic material that wicks sweat away from your body. Avoid cotton, which stays wet next to your skin. Next, add a layer of fleece or wool for insulation. Top this with a waterproof, breathable outer layer.
If you're lean, you may need more insulation than someone who is heavier.
Think about your workout
Stop-and-go activities, such as mixing walking with running, can make you more vulnerable to the cold if you repeatedly work up a sweat and then get chilly.
Protect your head, hands, feet and ears
When it's cold, blood flow is concentrated on your body's core, leaving your head, hands and feet vulnerable to frostbite. Try wearing a thin pair of glove liners made of a wicking material under a pair of heavier gloves or mittens lined with wool or fleece. Put on the mittens or gloves before your hands become cold and then remove the outer pair if your hands begin to sweat. Considering shoes a half-size or one size larger than usual to allow for thick thermal socks. Also wear a hat to protect your head or headband to protect your ears. If it's very cold, consider wearing a scarf or ski mask to cover your face. Consider using chemical heat packs to warm up your hands or feet, especially if you have a tendency to have cold fingers and toes or if you have a condition such as Raynaud's disease.
Don't forget sunscreen
It's as easy to get sunburned in winter as in summer - even more so if you're exercising in the snow or at high altitudes. Wear a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and a lip balm that contains sunscreen as well.
Wear reflective clothes
It gets darker earlier in the winter months. If it's dark when you exercise outside, wear reflective clothing.
Drink plenty of fluids
You need to stay well hydrated when exercising in cold weather just as you do when exercising in warm weather. Drink water or sports drinks before, during and after your workout, even if you're not really thirsty. The dry winter wind can make it harder to notice during cold weather.