Athletes devoted to outdoor workouts do not abandon their routines when winter rears its chilly head. While it can be difficult to embrace the great outdoors when temperatures hover around the freezing point, maintaining your motivation at such times bodes well for your fitness goals the rest of the year.
Staying warm is a top priority for athletes who exercise outdoors during the winter months. While there’s no guarantee winter winds won’t test your willpower, there are some ways to stay warm when working out in colder climates.
• Wear appropriate headgear. For years, many people subscribed to the conventional wisdom that suggested people lose 40 to 45 percent of their body heat through their heads. But in 2008, researchers at Indiana University debunked that myth, suggesting that if humans lost that much heat through their heads, then they would be just as cold when going outside without a hat on as they would be if they left home without wearing any pants. But wearing headgear when exercising outdoors is still a good idea, as the head is more sensitive to changes in temperature than many other areas of the body. A wool hat you can pull down over your ears can protect them from getting too cold. Athletes may also want to consider ski masks or other facial covers that can protect their faces when winter winds are howling.
• Layer correctly. Layering has long been a reliable way to beat the cold when temperatures are at their lowest. But layering must be done correctly to be effective. When choosing your workout gear, choose an inner layer that will move moisture away from your skin. Cotton retains moisture, and that means your sweat will cling to your body and make you feel cold. Once you find a shirt made with moisture-wicking material to wear against your skin, look for a second layer that also wicks moisture so you can more effectively control your body temperature. Your outer layer should be capable of handling the elements, so look for something that is waterproof and wind-resistant.
• Don’t forget footwear. Feet can easily succumb to cold temperatures when exercising outdoors, but you can employ the same strategy with your socks that you do with your layers. When choosing workout socks, avoid cotton socks that don’t wick moisture away from your feet. Acrylic can be more effective at wicking moisture away from your feet than cotton.
• Know your weather reports. While it’s admirable to stay on course with your outdoor workouts in the winter, don’t allow your devotion to overtake your common sense. Check the forecast before beginning an outdoor exercise, paying particular attention to the wind chil. According to the Mayo Clinic, frostbite can occur when skin is exposed to wind chill levels below minus 18 F for 30 minutes. If need be, shorten outdoor workout routines and find ways to exercise indoors when wind chills get dangerously low.
Exercising outdoors in winter can be exhilarating, but athletes must prioritize staying warm and safe for the duration of their workouts.