Tips For Staying Safe While Exercising In The Cold Weather

No one really enjoys going miles and miles on an elliptical machine or putting in the distance on a treadmill watching the beautiful scenery outside the windows, well, stand still. It’s so much more enjoyable to be in the great outdoors getting in your exercise for the day, but unfortunately for most of us, we have this terrible thing called the winter season to deal with.

Unfortunately, the winter means cold weather and lots of snow and sometimes ice to battle when we’re out for, oh, say, a nice cool run. But exercising in the cold weather can present a ton of potentially harmful, and dangerous, factors that a nice springtime run won’t bring along with it.

So if you’re really into running and exercising outdoors, even through the coldest months of the year, here are some tips to help you stay safe and healthy while getting your sweat on!

Pile on the Layers

Scientists have proven that there’s really no cold temperature that our bodies can’t handle while we exercise – just so long as we provide ourselves with the proper kind of protection. Despite the cold temperatures, exercising can help maintain a comfortable internal body temperature while outside.

But rather than just throwing on the warmest possible thing you own when you go out for a run, make sure you use layering to your advantage. Wear a long-sleeve cold-weather exercise shirt with a jacket over it, for example, because with the increase in your body heat throughout your workout will come the thought that you’re actually warm. You don’t want to overheat, so you need to be able to remove a layer as you need to.

On the contrary, once you stop exercising, your body immediately cools down, and the sweat on your body from your workout can dry and make you feel chilly. That’s when you’ll need to layer back up. Wear hats, scarves, gloves and jackets when you start a run or workout exercise, shed the layers as needed, and layer back up as you cool down after your workout. This will ensure your safety while working out in the frigid temperatures of winter!

Cover Your Extremities

Areas of your body like your hands, feet and ears become more cold more quickly than the rest of your body, so it’s important that you keep these areas covered throughout your cold-weather workout.

Wear light gloves and hats so that you don’t overheat – especially in the head. The majority of your body heat escapes from the top of your head when you’re sweating to keep your internal body temperature in check, so blocking that outlet can quickly lead to overheating. Make sure your ears are warm so the heat stays trapped in when and where it needs to, but don’t overdo it with a wool hat while you’re exercising that will cause your body to overheat.

Choose your winter exercise accessories wisely, and if you’re ever unsure, just remember to use layers. You’ll be better off shedding thin layers as you warm up while still staying protected than having too much or too little at any point during your workout.

Wear the Proper Footwear

Your regular old gym shoes probably won’t cut it on the tricky terrain of winter – roads are covered in salt, snow and often times ice throughout most of the winter, and these kinds of conditions require the right kinds of shoes.

As a general rule of thumb, a running or workout shoe that’s meant for trail running during the other seasons is typically a good option for regular road workouts in the winter. The reason for this is that these kinds of off-road shoes feature more traction and often more support than a typical gym or road running shoe. In the winter, you’ll want that added traction to help keep you up if you hit icy or snowy spots during your workout.

Some winter workout enthusiasts even go so far as to install mini spikes in the bottoms of their shoes for running in the winter terrain. This isn’t a bad idea, but make sure your shoes are also insulated enough to keep your toes warm throughout your workout, too. It’s difficult to transform a regular road running or gym shoe into a winter exercise shoe simply because they often don’t have enough insulation and support to keep you warm through the colder temps. If you insist on wearing thin shoes, at least make sure you counter it with a thick pair of sweat-wicking winter socks.

Know When It’s Time to Stop

Of course, even when you take the proper precautions, there’s still always a danger to exercising outdoors during the winter. Your body might actually be too cold inside, but you don’t notice because you’re sweating. This is where you could get in trouble.

Learn how to recognize the initial signs of frostbite and hypothermia and make sure you’re not running too far away from home, or you have a phone with you or a partner. This way, you’ll know that you can safely get home if or when you have to should anything ever go wrong.

Taking extra precautions while exercising outdoors in the winter can very well be the difference between a great, refreshing, cool workout and a physical disaster to your body. Make sure you’re properly geared up and knowledgeable to know when it’s time to stop before you hurt yourself.