Exercising in cold weather can be a welcome change from trying to work out in the sweltering summer heat. Whether you’re a fan of cold weather workouts or you have to talk yourself into getting out in the cold, there are some important things you should remember about cold weather workouts before heading outdoors.
Cold weather can cause your muscles and joints to be tighter than usual. The cold reduces the heat in muscles, causing them to contract and resulting in overall tightness. The tighter your joints and muscles, the less range of motion you will have, increasing the risk of injury. Your muscles must also work harder to complete the same tasks they could easily complete in warmer weather, causing more muscle damage and increased soreness.
Don’t let the cold weather get the best of your muscles. Give yourself more time to warm up before working out to avoid the increased soreness and reduce your risk of injury.
The warm-up is an important but often-overlooked aspect of exercise. It ensures good blood circulation throughout the body, improves muscle elasticity and control and may even increase endurance. Before you step out into the cold for a workout, here are some tips to help guide your warm-up.
Start with a brisk walk. Light cardio, like walking, will increase your core body temperature, getting oxygen and blood flowing through your body.
Stretch. Tight, cold muscles are more prone to injury. Stretching warms and loosens the muscles before strenuous activity. Active, dynamic stretching (as opposed to static or stationary stretching) is most beneficial in increasing blood flow to the muscles.
Give yourself enough time. As a general rule of thumb, plan to spend 10 to 15 minutes warming up if the outdoor temperature is between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. For each 10-degree drop below 35, give yourself another five minutes to warm up.
In addition to gradually ramping up into your full workout with a proper warm-up, it’s also important to dress appropriately for cold weather. Dress in layers that can be easily removed as your body temperature increases and you begin to sweat. As you begin to cool down after your workout, put the layers back on to stay warm. Avoid wearing cotton, as it traps moisture close to your skin and can make it difficult to stay warm. Instead, wear moisture-wicking fabrics for the layers closest to your body to help you stay dry and warm.
Finally, you should know when it’s too cold to workout outdoors. If the wind chill drops below zero, move your workout inside for the day. Living in a warm weather climate can make it more difficult for your body to adjust when cold temperatures roll in. Listen to your body and know when you need to make adjustments to your workout routine.