Winter has kicked in and it brings with it some challenges for exercisers. This post will explore the benefits to Winter exercise, and strategies to use to help you succeed.
In nature, animals hibernate for the entire winter. We don’t exactly sleep all winter, but we tend to spend less time outdoors, when the temperature dips.
Don’t let the colder temperatures put you off exercising. There will always be someone out exercising in colder weather than you. Weather is the perfect excuse to use for the winter months, to skip a training session. As a friend in Canada once said to me, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices”. This is my motto for the Wnter months. Train during the Winter and you will feel great when the warmer weather kicks in. If you can exercise in the cold, you will find it easier when it gets warmer. I spent two Winters working at an outdoor centre in Canada. Every morning before breakfast, I would get up and go for a cross country ski around the site. That 2015 winter was one of the coldest in the previous decade. It was never above -20 degrees celcius for those mornings. Training in that cold and inhospitable climate and terrain honed my focus for the upcoming running season. To date I still haven’t matched the race times that immediately preceeded that Winter. Your mental fortitude will increase like never before. Exercising in the cold is a habit like any other exercise routine. The routine gets easier the more you do it.
Top Tip: Dress for the forecast, wear more layers than you think you need. It’s better to be too warm than too cold!
The body and the cold
Hot conditions in the summer are a stressor on the body, but so is cold temperatures. Both extremes require some smart preperation, to avoid any misseed training time. Your body will work harder than normal in a colder climate to maintain your exercise intensity. As a result of this extra stress, it’s important to adjust your exercise intensity. If the temperature is in the minuses, you might want to do a workout indoors, or lower the intensity. The extra calories burned in cold weather is another incentive to head outside. Like training in hot weather, your body will adapt and use less energy at the same intensities as you get more accustomed to the cold exposure.
Watch out for
80% of heat is lost through your head, so always wear a hat of some sort. The core is also important to keep at a warm temperature. Hands, feet and your face are crucial areas to keep warm. If they start to become cold, chances are the rest of the body is cold and your performance will suffer. KEEP WRAPPED UP, especially if it’s windy.
Cold muscles and joints
Cold weather is a harsh time for your joints and muscles, they require more stimulation before their 100% ready to exercise. Stiff joints and cold muscles are a recipe for injury. Try doing some jumping jacks etc indoors before you head outside. That way your core temperature is elevated and the muscles and joints are warm and ready to perform.
As I said earlier, it’s better to be overdressed and too warm, than under dressed and having a chill. The other benefit of layering up is that your muscles and joints will be warmer starting off, decreasing the likelyhood of injury. The outside layer should ideally be windproof and have some waterproof feature. The top layer is important to prevent moisture entering to your skin. The next layer could be any long sleeve or short sleeve top, to add extra warmth. The base layer is ideally a synthetic material, as it keeps the heater better than cotton does. Ideally the layer is skin tight so that air can’t escape easily.
The after chill
When your finished exercising, jump straight in a warm shower or bath. This will get your body back to normal temperature levels quicker and help speed up the recovery process.
Watch out for icy patches and stay on the main routes. The last thing you want is a twisted ankle or a fall injury!
I hope that this post has helped your motivation levels for tackling the winter training season.
Let us know your strategies for keeping warm when exercising in the Winter.
Until next time,
Thanks for reading,