Cold Weather Fitness

I am obsessive about fitting my workout into my schedule, and subfreezing temperatures can’t dissuade me from exercising outside. Even though I am a fitness coordinator for Willis-Knighton’s Fitness Centers, I use the center mostly for weight training because I prefer to run outside, not on the treadmill. Here are some tips for surviving winter exercise.

If you are like me and prefer the brisk outdoors for exercise during the winter, here are a few tips:

  1. If you have to run in the dark, wear reflective clothes and use a headlamp or flashlight.
  2. Check the forecast for the time you will be outside. I failed to do this several years ago before I headed out to run a 20 miler with a group of friends. Before we finished, the temperature had dropped and rain had begun to fall.
  3. When temperatures drop below zero degrees or the wind chill is extreme, consider “biting the bullet” and take your workout indoors. Fortunately, in the deep South this rarely happens, but it can. I encountered a wind chill factor of 20 degrees below in Shreveport several years ago, and that forced me indoors.
  4. If the roads and sidewalks are covered with ice, don’t risk an injury.
    If you get bored running on a treadmill, try varying the speed and grade or use one of the pre-programmed workouts. I like to listen to motivational music or watch a good movie. If you are using a stationary bike or elliptical, try reading.
  5. Avoid exercise in a cold rain. Getting wet makes you more vulnerable to the cold.
  6. Dress warmly but don’t overdress. Wear layers that you can remove and put back on as needed. Tie your jacket around your waist or stuff your gloves in your waistband.
  7. Wear a hat to cover your ears, use warm socks and mittens, and take something to pull over your mouth if the air is really cold.
  8. Be sure to hydrate well. Even in the cold you lose water through
  9. Continue to wear sunscreen and apply lip balm.
  10. Wear lightweight synthetic material close to your skin to wick away moisture, not heavy cotton that can get wet and leave you with a layer of cold close to your skin.

Don’t let the winter discourage you from pursuing your exercise goals. However, if you have conditions, such as asthma, heart problems or Raynaud’s Syndrome, check with your doctor before you work out in cold weather.

Stay with it during this invigorating season and remember that soon you will be basking in our wonderful Louisiana heat and humidity and dreaming about the cool, crisp air we are enjoying now.

Fitness Tip: Wear mittens instead of gloves to keep your hands warm. Mittens allow your body’s warmth to be shared by creating a warm air pocket around your hand.