Safety Tips for Exercising in the Cold
Winter is upon us and the low temperature it brings can have a serious impact on your body. The cold triggers thermoregulation, which is controlled by your autonomic nervous system, in order to keep your body temperature as close as possible to normal (around 98.9 or 37.2°C). The shivers, an increase in heat production and a widening of your blood vessels are all effects the cold can have on your body.
When your metabolic processes can’t produce enough heat to make up for the heat lost, you can run the risk of chilblains or hypothermia. That’s why you need to take extra safety precautions when exercising in the cold. The FizzUp trainer’s bringing you three rules you should follow if you want to maintain your athletic performance outdoors and/or avoid getting sick.
SAFETY TIP #1 FOR EXERCISING IN THE COLD: LAYER UP!
One of the most important strategies to use when trying to offset the cold is to have the right equipment depending on your environment. Uncovered skin quickly loses heat, and this loss intensifies when your skin comes in contact with water. This is because water’s ability to conduct heat is about 25 times greater than that of air. This means that heat loss happens at an exponential rate when your skin is exposed to sweat or water, such as snow or rain.
The best way to insulate your body is to use layers to help it best maintain its temperature. In general, you should be wearing three layers:
- An inner layer is used to wick moisture away from the skin and disperse it so that it evaporates. Opt for synthetic, water-resistant fabrics such as polyester and polypropylene. We recommend undergarments, tight socks that are still flexible and tights or compression garments with a long-sleeved top that’s preferably made of wool.
- A middle layer made of a thicker or denser material helps you “trap” the warm air close to your body besides being water resistant. Choosing fabrics that absorb moisture to keep your skin dry when you sweat will keep you warm. Water is an extremely poor insulator that only makes it easier for you to lose heat.
- An outer layer should act like a ventilated windbreaker that protects you from the environment you’re moving in. This includes water, rain, snow and wind. You should be covered from head to toe, because these are the areas where you tend to lose the most heat (head, neck, hands and feet). When you’re out in the cold, your blood moves away from these areas and toward your organs to keep them working properly, making you more prone to chilblains and a loss of sensitivity. Your gloves should also be water and wind resistant. You can remove these outer layers to release accumulated body heat as your workout intensifies or if they start to get damp.
SAFETY TIP #2 FOR EXERCISING IN THE COLD: HAVE AN EFFECTIVE WARM-UP
A warm-up is a critical step in your workout for several reasons: it helps prevent injury, mentally prepares you for exercise, gets your body going (muscles, joints and nervous system) and guarantees better athletic performance. Never skip your warm-up!
In cold weather especially, it’s also a lot easier to pull a muscle, tendon or ligament if you start off too hard and too fast, so take it easy! With your muscles and organs being colder than room temperature and your body trying to protect them, your warm-up should take a little longer than usual and should gradually get more intense.
One major mistake people often make when it’s cold is that they do their warm-up indoors where it’s warm, then they go outside for a run. This sounds like a good idea, except for one thing: you’ll start to sweat and then it will freeze once you go outside. Whatever you do, you need to stay dry!
So warm-up outside. Start by taking it really slow and gradually getting up to speed until your muscles warm up all by themselves. Then you can continue your workout at your cruising speed.
And last but not least, we recommend putting on “too much” clothing with several layers. You can take them off one by one until you’re comfortable and your body temperature is balanced.
SAFETY TIP #3 FOR EXERCISING IN THE COLD: PLAY IT SAFE
Exercising in the cold takes some planning ahead, such as checking out the weather forecast and surrounding terrain, monitoring your level of hydration and seeing whether or not you need extra safety equipment. And if you’ve done all that but the weather conditions are still too extreme, then you’ll need to decide if exercising in the cold is really worth the risk.
No matter what the weather conditions, if the temperature drops below 23°F (-5°C), we strongly encourage you to stay indoors if you’re a beginner or suffer from asthma or other breathing problems. But if you’ve already got some experience under your belt, you’re only limited by your motivation! As long as you take the precautions to stay safe, you shouldn’t have any problems.
Now you know how to prepare yourself for exercising in the cold. But remember, when you work out regularly with FizzUp, you’re bound to get results indoors and out!