For those who enjoy outdoor workouts, the warmer seasons are everything you could ask for. Some warm sun rays, fresh air, and maybe even a welcome sprinkle of rain here and there to cool you down when your water bottle just doesn’t do the trick.
But of course, as we know, seasons change. And when the weather becomes too cold to continue our usual outdoor workouts, for some, it’s time to pack it in until the warmer weather comes back around. However, for those who thrive in the cold, the frigid weather is just an opportunity to mix it up and find new ways to stay active. Let’s walk through some safe workouts you can do when colder temperatures begin to hit.
Before You Head Outside
Between icy roads, cold and flu risks, and slower reaction times, exercising outdoors in the winter can turn out to be dangerous for some. Refer to this checklist prior to your next cold-weather workout :
Find workout clothes suited for the cold
Though you may just want to throw on a pair of sweatpants and a hoodie before heading out, this type of outfit is simply not enough in freezing weather.
The first rule to any cold weather workout attire is layering. More importantly, these layers should do a few things:
Keep you feeling warm
Protect you from getting wet
Cover your hands, head, and feet
You’ll want an undershirt that’s generally tight to your skin and does a good job of wicking away any moisture. Because of this, avoid cotton, which absorbs moisture and lowers your core temp, which in turn raises your risk of hypothermia in cold weather. You’ll normally want about 2 to 3 layers of clothing on your torso and legs once the temperature drops below freezing, with an extra layer added for every 15 degrees below freezing.
Know when it’s time to stop
One of the more dangerous parts of working out in the winter is the risk of getting cold enough to have a high risk of catching hypothermia, or even frostbite in the most extreme conditions. Being aware of how your body is reacting to the weather should be a priority so you know when it’s time to stop.
Any sort of prolonged exposure to the cold is enough to cause any of these conditions to develop, so make sure you know your limits. The National Weather Service chart does an excellent job of showing you how long is too long to be outdoors depending upon the temperature and wind chill outside. Of course, your age and other health-related factors will come into play too, so talk to your doctor about any specifics you should know before working out.
Make sure you stretch
When we get cold, our muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissue naturally become slightly more contracted and tense. And because they get more tense, they end up performing at a much lower level than they might under normal weather conditions. As a result, athletes become more prone to injury, especially when doing activities that involve heavy contact or high speeds, often falling victim to sprains, strains, and tears.
One of the most effective ways to combat these sorts of injuries is stretching. Prior to your workout, be sure to stretch each area of your body for about 5 to 10 minutes, working each muscle until you feel loose and ready to go.
When it comes to working out in the cold, the best type of exercises you can do are almost all cardio based. And that’s important, because according to the American Heart Association, people both young and old should be getting at least 150 minutes (or 2.5 hours) worth of moderately intense aerobic or cardio exercise in each week.
So with that in mind, here are the three most effective (but also safe) workouts for you to do when your usual outdoor gauntlet is put to an end from the cold weather:
One of the simplest forms of working out that there is, running is a great exercise year-round. In colder temperatures, it’s also one of the most effective. In fact, cold weather is the ideal condition to run in because it causes less heat stress on your body than hot, humid temperatures.
Not only is running in the cold an effective way to work out, but it also provides runners with a few extra benefits that they might not get in warmer climates. Some of the top benefits of running in the cold include:
An increase in metabolism
Burning more calories
A boost in overall mood
With trails found nearly anywhere in the country, hiking is one of the most fundamentally simple and accessible exercises you can do. And due to its similarities to running, hiking shares a lot of the same benefits that you’d get from doing just that. However, unlike running, hiking offers a slower pace, and in most cases, an immediate payoff in the form of a beautiful view.
As is the case year-round, hiking is an activity best suited for two. One, so you have someone to enjoy the company with while going on your wintery trek. But secondly, for safety purposes, it’s always best to go hiking with a friend or group. Especially in the winter climate, hiking can be dangerous depending on the skill level of the hike itself. For that reason, you’ll want to steer away from rocky, steep terrain and aim for simpler paths if you’re more of a beginner.
As of 2016, about 12.5% of Americans cycled on a regular basis. And that makes sense, because
although you should definitely avoid this particular workout when roads are icy, biking is one of the healthiest forms of athletic activity there is – even in the cold.
Aside from better cardiovascular health, biking provides a plethora of physical benefits, including:
Increased muscle strength
Better joint mobility
Decreased body fat levels over time
Of course, if you choose to go biking in the colder temperatures (especially in snowy terrain), you’ll want to make sure you have the right type of bike for the job. While most cyclists tend to use road bikes almost year-round, experts would recommend using a mountain bike in winter weather to ensure you have the best traction, regardless of terrain, to ensure a safe ride.
If you injure yourself, find an orthopedic specialist
No matter the weather, injuries are bound to happen here and there when staying physically active. And for when those injuries strike, no matter how severe, you’ll want to make sure you visit a doctor.
At Rothman Orthopedics, our team of specialists have helped heal athletes from across the country with their sports-related injuries. If you or someone you know needs expert care, consider making an appointment by scheduling a visit online, calling us at 1-800-321-9999, or stopping by one of our orthopedic urgent care clinics for same-day treatment.