As the days get shorter and temperatures drop during the colder months—so can your motivation to exercise and spend time outside. Just because bears hibernate when it gets chilly doesn’t mean it has to be in your nature. Here are some noteworthy tips from CU cross country coach Heather Burroughs to staying fit, warm and protected while burning calories in the cool open air.
Wear appropriate clothing
Dress in at least three layers–wear protective yet breathable attire when working up a sweat.
Avoid materials such as cotton because it will hold in moisture and keep you wet. Good airy materials include nylon and Gore-Tex.
“I would recommend a very warm, fitted base layer beneath a few others,” Burroughs said. “If it’s snowing wear a water-proof or water-resistant layer on top.”
Be strategic in the way you bundle up so you can protect your body from wind and precipitation without overheating.
“Remember the saying, ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing?’” Burroughs said. “One can exercise in virtually any weather but that doesn’t mean it’s practical. When it’s extremely cold, one might ask, ‘Do I have a suitable indoor option?’ or ‘Can I stand to run on a treadmill instead?’ If the answer is no, then go outside but dress adequately and be sensible.”
Don’t venture solo
Although it may be tempting to create your own quiet, wintry route–you take a huge risk when isolating yourself in potentially dangerous conditions.
Find a buddy or let someone know the area you will be hiking or jogging near. Also inform them on your expected return time, in case you run into harm’s way.
“Don’t go someplace isolated from cars or other pedestrians,” Burroughs said. “Don’t get too far from an indoor facility in case you’re having trouble.”
Also, wear light-colored or reflective clothing because as it gets colder, it will get darker earlier. It’s essential that drivers can spot you!
Dress your head, hands, feet and ears
You can lose body heat or become more susceptible to frostbite if you don’t fully cover up amid frigid temperatures.
Be sure to slip on a hat, a pair of gloves or mittens, and a pair of thick socks to shield your body from illness. If you insist on exercising in below freezing conditions, be sure to coat your face with a mask or scarf.
“Don’t ignore symptoms that you’re in distress such as numb fingers, toes or ears which are particularly vulnerable to frostbite,” Burroughs said.
Listen to your body.
Other frostbite symptoms can include a cold or burning feeling, clumsiness or painful, itching sensation.
Click here for more information on the symptoms and stages of hypothermia and frostbite.
Sport durable footwear
Be sure your sneakers of choice aren’t too loose or snug. Make sure each shoe has enough traction to prevent slipping on ice or snow.
According to the Livestrong Foundation, you should replace your running shoes every six months if you run at least four days a week. If you run anywhere from three to five miles a day, four days a week, you put in approximately 300-500 miles at the six-month mark. If you exercise in running flats, replace them between three to six months. The shoes’ cushioning and support gradually wears down and can cause muscle fatigue and shin splints—yikes!
Stay hydrated. Drink before, during and after your workout even if you’re not thirsty. Dehydration may be more difficult to notice when exercising in the cold but occurs just as often when working out in warm weather.
Observe wind chill
Before layering up to get fit in the cold, it’s important to pay attention to all aspects of the weather.
According to Mayo Clinic, wind chill extremes can make exercising outdoors unsafe despite warm clothing. The wind can permeate through your clothes and remove the insulating layer of warm air that surrounds your body. The windier it is, the colder you will feel. Paying attention to wind speed is just essential as observing the air temperature!
“When it’s really cold or the footing is snowy and icy, I don’t think you can get in as good of a workout because you’re wearing so many layers or slipping,” Burroughs said. “Fortunately, Boulder is a climate where that isn’t often the case. On our coldest, snowiest days, the CU middle and long distance runners, still train outside. We adjust our training accordingly, maybe by doing our warm-up and cool-down outside but fast running on the indoor track. We also might just slow down the assignments and deal with the conditions.”