By Hannah Alderfer, BA, CPT, FMSC
Don’t let the winter months ruin your plans to stay active outside. If you’re like me, you need a healthy dose of outdoor activity (you’ll only find me on the treadmill under dire circumstances), and though below-freezing temperatures make it a little more challenging, it’s not impossible. Follow these tips to stay safe, warm and healthy throughout your winter activities.
- Invest in quality clothing that is appropriate for your level of activity. Remember that the more intense your activity (walking, hiking, skiing, running, etc.), the more you’ll sweat. You’ll want to have material that will wick sweat away so that you do not end up becoming too chilled.
- Dress in layers. It’s always easier to take layers off as you go than to leave with too little and put yourself in a miserable and often dangerous situation. When I run, gloves often get stashed in my pockets after a few miles, a light jacket may get tied around my waist, and my sleeves often get rolled up.
- Warm up inside before heading out. With the colder temperatures you’ll want your muscles to be primed so that they don’t tighten up in the cold – and risk getting injured. Go through some basic dynamic warm up drills. Try doing just 2-3 minutes (just enough to be warm but not sweaty) of light high knees, butt kickers, side lunges, squats, calf raises, and upper body movements or anything else that gets your major muscle groups moving.
- Try hand warmers. And feet warmers, and toe warmers and body warmers. These things have saved me in past winters when the average temperatures have been in the teens. They last for hours, are inexpensive and keep those extremities from becoming numb from the cold.
- Be visible to others. If you find that one of the most difficult parts about winter is the lack of light, I agree. Now I wouldn’t recommend for safety reasons to be out in the dark, especially on the road, so if you can avoid it, do so. If you do head out early or after dusk, find a partner and quiet roads with sidewalks. Stick to well-lit neighborhoods if you can. I’ve learned to combat the dark by wearing reflective clothing, a flashing clip-on light (from New Balance), a light-up vest (from Saucony… yes, a light-up vest with its very own rechargeable battery), and a very fashionable headlamp, which lights up the whole road in front of me, keeping my footing safe, and it stays in place on my head.
- Wind can make a mild day bitter cold, so remember to have something to cover all exposed skin areas. Make sure to check the wind-chill temperature before you head outside. You can also use products such as Vaseline or Body Glide to protect your cheeks and nose from frostbite. If that’s not appealing to you, grab a scarf or, easier yet, a balaclava for face protection.
- Find a friend to endure the cold with you. The cold isn’t so bad when you’ve got a friend to talk to and help make the time pass more quickly. You’ll also keep each other accountable to keep moving, even when it’s mentally tough to get outside.
- Change out of your wet clothes and go somewhere warm quickly after you’re finished. It’s also not a bad idea to grab a warm drink to get your core temperature back up post workout as well.
Cold Weather Running Tips