The temperatures have dropped, there’s snow on the ground, and you can see your breath. It must be winter! For all you exercise addicts out there, winter is a challenging time to get outside for exercise. Road and ground conditions don’t necessarily make outdoor exercise easy, plus the frigid temperatures and increased dark hours can necessitate a change in exercise habits for a variety of reasons.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to stay safe when exercising outdoors in the colder months. Let’s take a look at a couple of key things you can do to protect yourself and stay injury-free.
There are a lot of things to consider when dressing for outdoor exercise in winter. First, what you wear and how much you wear will likely be impacted by your activity. For example, you may dress warmer with more layers if you’re going biking as opposed to running, because with biking you’re also likely dealing with more wind resistance, which keeps you colder. Be sure to avoid cotton-based clothing, as that absorbs and retains moisture that, when it evaporates, can make you feel even colder and possibly drive your body into hypothermia. It’s also a good idea to dress in layers so you can peel off clothes if you get too hot, but it’s also important to have a nice, insulated outer layer. And don’t forget hats and gloves, or even face covering if it’s really windy. Not properly protecting your body parts can lead to frost bite and/or wind burn.
Lastly, if you’re exercising either in the early morning or the late afternoon/evening, be sure to remember to wear reflective clothing or even put on a runner’s light. That will help you avoid any accidents with cars on the road!
Protect Your Skin and Eyes
We don’t often think about getting sunburned in the winter, but it’s actually quite possible. When it’s snowy out, the ground can reflect harmful UV rays right into your face. And if you’re skiing or snowboarding, the effect is even more potent. As such, it’s a good idea to put on some sunblock to protect against sunburn. The dry air can really take a toll on your skin anyway, and so a moisturizer/sunblock can serve double-duty. And don’t forget your UV-blocking sunglasses to avoid damage to your eyes!
Take Caution with Road/Trail Conditions
Nothing puts a damper on a workout like a fall caused by ice. Not only can you slip, causing injury to your body from the fall, but branches or stones can become hidden by snow, making them a danger for tripping. If you’re a runner or a bicyclist, your safest bet is to stay on well-maintained roads that have been plowed. Or, if you enjoy running or hiking on trails, it’s a good idea to put spikes on your shoes to give you a little extra traction.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
We know it sounds silly to have to remind people to drink water, but this is so essential for winter workouts. The thing is that in the winter, we still sweat even if we don’t feel hot, plus we tend to lose even more fluids when we breathe in the winter. Be sure to drink a bit before you go out, while you’re exercising (especially if it’s a period more than 30 minutes), and afterwards.