Cold weather is upon us, but getting your exercise in is still a good idea. Here are a few ways to keep the frigid feelings down and your heart rate up during the chilly months, courtesy of The Mayo Clinic.
- Watch the wind. Temperature, wind, and moisture, along with how long you will be outside, are vital to planning a safe workout in the cold. Wind and cold combine to make up wind chill, and even with warm clothing, serious wind chill can make outdoor exercise unsafe, because the wind can penetrate clothes and remove that layer of warm air that insulates your body.
- Layer up. The mom on “A Christmas Story” didn’t quite have the right idea when she encased Ralphie’s little brother in too much winter wear. You should not dress too warmly—because when you exercise, you’re going to generate lots of heat. That will make you feel like it’s warmer than it actually is. Then when sweat evaporates, it will pull heat from your body and make you feel cold. The solution is to put on layers that you can take off when you start to sweat. Start with a wicking material such as polypropylene, which will pull sweat away from your body. Then add a layer of fleece or wool for insulation, and top your layers off with a waterproof, breathable outer layer.
- Stay dry. Avoid wearing cotton, which will stay wet next to your skin. If it’s raining or snowing, think about staying indoors—unless you have waterproof workout gear. Getting wet will make you more vulnerable to cold, and getting totally soaked could keep your core body temperature from staying high enough.
- Protect your head (and hands, and feet, and ears.) When it’s cold, blood flow concentrates in your core—so your head, hands, and feet become vulnerable. Put on a thin pair of glove liners made of a wicking material, then put on heavier gloves or mittens, wool or fleece, over those. Put on the mittens or gloves before your hands get cold, then remove the outer pair when your hands get sweaty. Buy exercise shoes a half-size or more larger than you usually wear to make room for thick, thermal socks, or at least an extra pair of regular socks. And wear a hat or a headband to protect your head and ears. If it’s really cold, add a scarf or a ski mask.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen. Don’t pack the sunscreen away in the beach bag during the cold months. No kidding. It is just as easy to get sunburned in the winter as it is in the summer, even more if you’re in the snow or at higher altitudes. Use sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, as well as a lip balm that has sunscreen. You should probably leave the flip-flops in the beach bag, though (your toes will thank you).
- Joe Crowe
YMCA of Greater Birmingham, www.ymcabham.org
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