Cold temperatures can make an outdoor workout invigorating — especially after the heat and humidity of summer. Although that burst of cold air may energize you, it can be risky if you’re not properly prepared. Follow these tips from Dr. Brandon Cincere of UT Erlanger Orthopaedics to ensure your next winter excursion a pleasant one.
Your favorite route may not be the best to follow in cold weather. Prior to beginning your run, check your usual route for ice, snow, or other elements that could cause hazardous situations. Then, adjust your course for a safer option.
Be flexible with your schedule. If a morning jog means you’re in the dark with lower temperatures, and when obstacles may not be clearly visible, try switching it up for a lunchtime or early-evening run.
Keep an eye on the weather report. It may be above freezing as you start your run, but as cold fronts move in and winds pick up, temperatures — and especially wind chill — can drop dramatically. With fast changing weather on cold days, it’s smart to take a cell phone with you and let a friend know where you’ll be running. Also, watch for approaching rain, sleet, or snow. No one wants to end up miles from home, cold, and sloshing through puddles. If it looks like temperatures or wind chill might drop below zero, you may want to opt for the treadmill instead.
- Dress for the conditions
You may not need as many layers as you think. As your body temperature rises with that head-to-toe layer of thermal underwear you added under your sweats, you may start to regret it. A layer of moisture-wicking material, like a tech T-shirt and tights, makes a good base for additional layers. Next, a water-resistant protective shell, like Gore-Tex, can protect you from rain or snow and is still breathable enough to release vapors from sweat. If that’s not enough, you may want to add an additional layer of warmth like a fleece. Avoid cotton or other materials that will trap sweat and keep you cold.
Once your run is complete, be sure to change out of any damp clothing as soon as possible. When your body starts cooling down, damp clothing will keep you shivering.
- Protect your skin
Cover as much skin as possible. Gloves and hats of varying weights are great items to have on hand. Body heat escapes through unclothed skin, so contain your body’s natural warmth by keeping your head and hands covered. A thermal scarf or balaclava can be added to cover your nose, face, and neck on those extra-chilly days. Plus, if you’re an asthma sufferer, these facial coverings will help you breathe easier by bringing more warm air into the lungs.
Don’t forget the sunscreen. Though the sky may be cloudy, it’s still possible for UV rays to creep through, and a sun-wind burn combo is not something that you want to experience. A sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 is recommended. You may also want to opt for a sweat-proof version of your favorite cream.
- Care for your Body
Warm up. To help prevent injury and get your blood pumping, it’s best to do a few light exercises before your run. Jumping jacks, push-ups, or knee raises, in addition to stretching, can help prep your body for the cold.
Stay hydrated. Many athletes still sweat regularly through the winter months by bulking up their clothing in an attempt to stay warm. So, it’s important to stay hydrated, just as you would in warmer weather. A glass of water might not sound like the best option when you come in from the cold, but your body will thank you later. Also, watch for signs of dehydration, such as dizziness, headache, or muscle cramps.
Embrace the cold
Though it may mean a little extra effort in preparation, continuing your regular exercise routine throughout the winter months is important to your overall health. So, gear up, stay safe, and get out there!
It’s best to consult your physician prior to beginning any new exercise regimen. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 423-778-2564 or try our instant online booking option, ZocDoc.