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January 15, 2012

10 Winter Exercise Tips

Well, we’re a couple of weeks into 2012, and, depending on where you live, this could mean temperatures in the 50′s or several degrees below zero. Regardless, athletes everywhere (professional and amateur) are bundling up before heading outside to work out, if they go outside at all. For those of you who do decide to brave the elements, here are some helpful tips for exercising in cold weather:

  1. Check the weather and wind chill. Checking the weather is an obsession for many athletes, but it is doubly important during the cold winter months. Knowing the temperature and weather conditions will dictate how many and what type of layers you wear. Also, remember to check the wind chill, because the wind makes it feel several degrees colder.
  2. Wear layers. The colder it gets, the more layers you need. Depending on the temperature and the person, three to four layers, or more, are needed during the winter months. The first layer should always be wool or a synthetic moisture-wicking material. The second, something to keep in your body heat, and the outer layer should always be something to protect you from the wind and snow.
  3. Remember to hydrate. The importance of hydration does not go away because it is cold outside. What does diminish is an athlete’s awareness. Since it’s cold outside, athletes often don’t think about drinking water and Gatorade, because the sweat evaporates quickly. So, remember to hydrate throughout the day and during a workout in the winter months
  4. Give extra time to warm up. Just like with your car, it takes a little longer for your muscles to acclimate and warm up in the cold weather. Not properly warming up is a sure-fire path to injury, especially when it is cold out. Allow plenty of time for your body to warm up when it’s cold out.
  5. Decrease your intensity. As stated before, your muscles take longer to warm up during winter months. They also don’t function as efficiently, and trying to push through the cold and maintain a certain pace will only lead to injury. So, back off your intensity and focus more on perceived effort than speed when exercising in the cold.
  6. Protect your extremities. The risk of frost bite is not present during warmer months, so remember to wear gloves and warm socks during winter. Also, wear a hat to minimize heat loss through your head.
  7. Pay close attention to cars. The roads are a treacherous place for athletes, runners and cyclists especially, because drivers don’t pay attention or care enough to share the road. Snowy and icy conditions add more danger, because cars might not be able to stop, so pay extra attention to cars while working out in the winter.
  8. Exercise during daylight hours. It is safest to work out during daylight hours because it is easier to see obstacles and be seen by cars. Working out during the daytime is harder in the winter, because it gets dark sooner, and working out before or after work may not be an option. So, many athletes workout during their lunch break. If you do workout at night, be sure to wear reflective clothing and assume that the cars can’t see you.
  9. Consider working out indoors. Many athletes avoid working out indoors at all costs, but sometimes it is unavoidable when the snow is blowing and temperatures are below zero.
  10. Stretch before and after a workout. Regardless of when or where you exercise, always remember to stretch before and after a workout to maintain flexibility and blood flow to your muscles. Flexibility helps decrease injuries and will help you warm up sooner during winter months. >> Learn more Sports Injury Prevention Tips
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