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13 Cold Weather Exercise Tips

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
1/29/2011 8:01 AM   :  47 comments   :  27,177 Views

See More: running, tips, exercise,

With much of the country experiencing unseasonably colder temperatures, as well as snow and ice this winter, these conditions can make it more of a challenge to hit the trails to get in your daily run in, especially when it would be so much easier to stay indoors. But you don't have to put your workouts on hold until the spring temperatures return. By taking proper precautions before heading outside you can make the most of your workouts while battling the elements.

Below are a few tips to help make your outdoor activities this winter a little more pleasurable. While I do focus on running know that these tips can be applied to almost every workout activity done outside during the cold winter season.

  • Layering is a must

    Layering allows you to remove articles of clothing as your body temperature begins to rise. Being overdressed at the onset of your run can lead to a greater sweat rate early on which can lead to chills especially if there is a brisk wind. Click the following link for ideas on how to layer for your winter runs.

  • Put your clothes in the dryer before heading out

    A little trick of the trade many runners use before heading out into the frigid winter temperatures is putting their running clothes in the dryer prior to their runs. While you may find yourself a little toasty at the onset of your run, by the time your body generates its own heat, the heat from your warm clothing will have dissipated.

  • Wear mittens instead of gloves

    Unlike gloves, wearing mittens allows your body's warmth to be shared. Another trick runners have been known to use is slipping in the hand warmer packets that hunters use to keep their hands warm. All you have to do is open the packet and slip these into your mittens and you are good to go. And because these packets can stay warm for hours, they are especially nice in keeping your hands warm when you are done with your run.

  • Cover your face and your neck

    There is an old wives tale that running in below freezing temperatures could cause your lungs to freeze. That cannot happen since our bodies are designed to warm the air via our nasal airway before it reaches our lungs. However, this doesn't mean running in colder temperatures doesn't present some challenges.

    Wearing such attire as a balaclava and neck gaiter is the way to go for many cold weather exercise enthusiasts. A balaclava is basically a hooded mask that covers the neck and head allowing for an opening for your face. However, in extreme temperatures you can even go so far as pull it over your mouth and nose leaving a small opening for your eyes which provides for greater protection from the cold. Wearing a neck gaiter is similar to a balaclava although it is basically used to keep your neck warm, however it can be pulled up to cover your mouth and ears.

  • Warm-up before heading outside

    Warm-ups are important any time of year, but even more so in winter when pulled muscles can be a problem without an appropriate warm-up. Some runners find doing a nice 10 minute warm-up before heading outside can make the transition to running easier once you venture into the cold.

  • Begin your run into the wind

    If possible choose a route that begins your run into the wind so that on your return you have the wind at your back. Ending your run into the wind, especially when your body has been sweating, can increase your chill factor and in very frigid temperatures this could increase your risk for developing hypothermia.

  • Make a loop

    By running in a loop, versus an out and back route, this allows you to shorten your run if you need to if weather conditions become too treacherous to continue running.

  • Slow your pace

    Because of the added bulk from the extra layers of clothing your body will experience greater resistance, couple that with running on snow/ice on the road surface and you will have no choice but to slow your pace.

  • Wear the proper footgear for snow/ice

    YakTrax are simple lightweight steel coil and rubber attachments which mold to your existing shoes allowing for greater traction, especially for those who must run or walk on snow or ice.

  • Hydration

    Hydration is just as important in winter as it is in summer. Remember your body loses fluids via sweating, respiration and production of urine so be sure to hydrate before, during and after your workouts. A little trick of the trade is to keep your water bottle under your clothing to help keep the water from freezing.

  • Skin protection

    Sunscreen and sunglasses are staples for summer and winter workouts alike, especially on sunny days. Sunlight reflection from the snow and the road surface can lead to glare and even sunburn.

    And don't forget to apply lip balm to your lips before heading out and petroleum jelly to exposed skin. It isn't uncommon for volunteers to offer tongue depressors loaded with petroleum jelly during winter marathons and half-marathons to help offset chaffing from the wind and cold.

  • Don't forget the anti-chaffing cream

    Because of multiple layering of clothing this can lead to a greater risk of sweating which in turn can lead to a greater chance of developing chaffing issues, especially in the arm area, and for women along the bottom their sports bra line. Products such as Mission Skincare's Long-Lasting Anti-Chafe Balm and High Performance Anti-Friction Cream are ideal for helping prevent this common annoyance.

  • Wear your reflective gear

    You want to make sure drivers see you so make sure you follow the road safety tips and that you wear your reflective gear, especially if the skies are overcast.
These are just a few simple tips to help make your winter time workouts a little easier, but if weather conditions warrant, it's just fine to use these days to run inside on the treadmill or do some cross training until the temperatures warm up.

Have you continued your outdoor exercise routine during the winter months? What tips can you offer others to make working out in the cold more enjoyable? Do you have a temperature cut off that you will not go outside to run or walk?


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Comments

  • PERKINSSISTERS
    47
    Yesterday the wind chill in CO was -35. I could only walk (really fast, btw) for 15 minutes. So, that's my limit. - 2/3/2011   1:38:05 AM
  • 46
    Thank you for this wonderful blog! I live in sunny California, and admit that we are spoiled here. There are some days during the winter that are very windy and cold (for us), so this was great to read and keep in mind for our "cold" winter days. Thank you again!! Hugs, Janet - 2/2/2011   3:44:50 PM
  • 45
    I've been getting PLENTY of exercise shoveling snow this winter! - 2/1/2011   11:43:52 AM
  • 44
    I don't like to be outside when the temp is in the single digits (F), or the wind chill is in the single digits. I live by my SmartWool socks, UnderArmor long johns, and runner's gloves. I wear three wicking layers on top and two on my legs. I don't like to risk running on snow or ice, though I do have a pair of YakTrax. Because of the short winter days, I have a headlamp that fits over my wicking hat, and a reflective vest to wear over my top layer. My runner's gloves also are part glow-in-the-dark (on the thumbs and side of the hands). Not only do I run outside in the winter, but also snowshoe and X-country ski. - 1/31/2011   1:54:16 PM
  • 43
    I bought a pair of Yak Trax about 3 years ago, and I use them often in the winter when I am walking, they work great! I have never had a fall while wearing them. - 1/31/2011   1:54:01 PM
  • 42
    I love the tip about putting your clothes in the dryer! Any additional tips for hand protection? I have raynaud's and wear gloves and mittens over them but my fingers still go numb in 5 minutes. I have tried the hand warmers and that helps. Any other suggestions? - 1/31/2011   10:42:58 AM
  • 41
    This article is exactly what I have been doing for the last two months! I trained for Goofy (hm on Saturday and full on Sunday) in December in Ohio; it was very cold and snowy. Last week my running group still met and did all of our miles with a -14 windchill. We dress appropriately and take precautions on the trail. I will run in almost anything so long as I don't have to get on the treadmill!! Running in the cold can actually be quite exhilirating. - 1/30/2011   9:47:29 PM
  • 24SAPPHIRES1
    40
    Those are really great ideas. I don't always think things through to make myself comfortable and then I wonder why I don't want to do something. Yes being prepared will make me continue on with my workout. I forget about sunscreen in the winter and don't usually take water with me. At work when I am shoveling I just stop go in and get water or something warm to drink. But I like the idea of taking it out with me. During the summer I wear a belt to carry my cell phone and water I will just continue to do that during the winter. I like the stretching or yoga first-I've taken a couple of spill this winter already and my body was already relaxed. I had a fluffy coat-so it took most of the absorption. I was shoveling and was about to start in a new area that looked wet-but it was ice not water and oops!
    I haven't tried snowshoeing yet and all these tips will be really helpful as I try out new things. Thanks - 1/30/2011   8:06:02 PM
  • MOMB57
    39
    I liked the tip about putting your clothese in the dryer prior to going out. Now I just have to get myself out there on a regular basis. - 1/30/2011   4:23:36 PM
  • 38
    Move to Phoenix.

    Then we'll have to read "Hot Weather Exercise Tips" in the summer. - 1/30/2011   4:07:15 PM
  • 37
    That was all great information from everyone. I don't like the cold much but I am learning to deal with it but to also wear layers and that does seem to help a lot. I have a couple of small races coming up next month so we will see how it goes!!! Looking forward to using some of these fabulous ideas.... - 1/30/2011   2:51:09 PM
  • 36
    Thanks for the info. I wear mittens almost all the time in the winter. And I dislike the cold, so exercising outside is usually a no for me. (Unless I am with the kids and we go sledding, etc. They, the kids, make the cold bearable and fun.) - 1/30/2011   2:08:29 PM
  • 35
    I've tried to keep my exercise routine the same during the winter, but that isn't always possible. As a result of all the snow we've been getting, I find myself getting lots and lots of shoveling for exercise !! If people need something to do because of the snow, look no further than shoveling. If you're in good health, shoveling makes for an excellent workout.

    Now, assuming it's not snowing, I make sure I have plenty of layers on when I do go outside for my morning walks. Unless the temps are below zero, I will still go outside to walk.

    - 1/30/2011   1:18:49 PM
  • 34
    I love to jog in the summer here in Northern Canada, but we get so much snow this time of year that there are no more paths, even with Yak Trax I'm afraid I would twist an ankle since all paths are very tiny and never cleared. Either that or run in thigh-deep snow! Haha. Great post! - 1/30/2011   11:08:11 AM
  • 33
    It hasn't been the cold that scares me off - it's the ice and snow on the path. I'm going to check out the Yak Trax, screws, and micro spikes to see which work for me (You can't use your shoes without the screws once you put them in, right?) - 1/30/2011   9:34:33 AM
  • GERRIT2
    32
    I don't run outside when the temperature drops to -10 Celsius or lower, especially with a wind chill as my asthma really acts up. Instead my husband bought me a great treadmill that I use pretty much from late November to mid March. I don't have to worry about slipping on the ice, or getting frost bite during my long runs. I do head outside on the days the temperature warms up, like it did last week. But today we are once again in the deep freeze at -20 C with a wind chill to -30 C and several inches of snow. The treadmill will allow me to get a good run in. I keep it fun by alternating speed and incline. I have found that the treadmill does not have to be the "Dreadmill". But will look forward to spring when I can once again do all my runs outside. - 1/30/2011   9:26:08 AM
  • 31
    I really like this blog- the tips are great. I am a cold weather exerciser, and wasn't sure what tips I would pick up, but I plan to try out the anti-chafing cream since I've always struggled with that issue. What I'd like to find help with is a product to keep glasses from fogging up. I used to wear contacts but switched to glasses after an eye infection, and now I fight with my glasses fogging up when I am out skiing cross country.

    Thanks for the great blog!

    Edited to add: I use a face mask in extreme temperatures. It is a neoprene mask and what I like is that it does not get itchy like a turtle or baclava can when I start to sweat a little. I've had them for years so I can't tell you the brand any longer, but I really like them a lot. - 1/30/2011   7:55:11 AM
  • SUGARJUNKIE405
    30
    If it's cold outside, bring the workout indoors and walk at the mall. Here in Oklahoma, you find both young and old, men and women walking the mall to get exercise without risking outdoor injury or health issues (asthma, colds, etc.). It works! - 1/30/2011   7:38:56 AM
  • 29
    Good tips, though I am not much of an outdoor exerciser, but I couldn't help but get a smile from the hydration tip, keep your water bottle under your clothes so the water doesn't freeze..hmmm, methinks that if it's cold enough for water to freeze while you are out running and the liquid is constantly moving from the rhythm of the run, you probably shouldn't be out, no matter what!!

    Thanks for the tips! - 1/30/2011   7:11:27 AM
  • 28
    Yak Trax a wonderful suggestion. Especially for older people! - 1/30/2011   6:19:28 AM
  • 27
    Thanks for the advise. Gave and received YakTraxs for Christmas. They come in handy on the icy streets in Almaty, Kazakhstan. - 1/30/2011   4:59:38 AM
  • 26
    Great tips! Thanks. Learned a lot!
    I love walking in the park in the cold, provided it's not too windy, but lately the rain has made that impossible- sodden ground is impossible to walk on, so I've walked the streets around our way.
    To come in from the cold and have the warmth of the house hit you is a wonderful feeling. - 1/30/2011   3:41:54 AM
  • 25
    I actually prefer to run in cold weather than summer heat. I bought a cycling bib a couple of years ago which is windproof. I unsew the inside bottom padding, and wear this bib for running, cross-country skiing and biking (I wear separate underwear with the extra padding). I do the same for the jacket (a biking windproof jacket), nice since it has back pockets and cover well my back. I have a polar fleece gaiter and sport sunglasses.Along with the beanie, this helps to have my face well covered. I use the Yak trax (but not tried them for running) when I go for a walk with my son, pulling a Nordic Cab. Why I love this ? because I love being all alone in the outdoors.
    This makes you feel as if you wear in remote wild areas, although you might just be in your neighbourhood. - 1/30/2011   2:09:02 AM
  • 24
    I hate cold weather. - 1/30/2011   12:29:55 AM
  • 23
    I walk using a rolling walker for stability - it really helps on ice but cannot handle snow over 1", so I don't venture out if snow is falling or threatening. Also don't go if temperature is below 20*F (or above 90*F in summer), or if the wind speed is above 30mph. I can & do change the time of day I go to get milder temperatures. I drive to an indoor pool or to our clinic which has an elliptical I can use, or stay in & try Spark strength training videos if the weather is really insufferable. I have slipped a couple times on ice, & cannot rise unassisted, very embarrassing & here potentially life threatening, so the Yax trax sounds like a great idea. - 1/30/2011   12:08:37 AM
  • 22
    I wonder if it's safe to run in rain, even with protection gears. - 1/29/2011   10:56:52 PM
  • 21
    great info - 1/29/2011   9:27:06 PM
  • 20
    I love to hike this time of year....in ARIZONA....of course, there is NO snow.
    Today, a breeze it was in the 60's. Hiked without a jacket! Still pretty cool.
    But don't have to worry about layers! - 1/29/2011   9:15:09 PM
  • FIREBIRD36
    19
    I am an inside exercise person in the winter. After having kids, my body developed cold induced hives. So I have to worry about my nasal passages and throat closing on me in cold temperatues about 20 degrees below my body temperature. I use a lot of DVD's and hop on my elliptical machine. - 1/29/2011   9:03:39 PM
  • 18
    I`ve been running through Jan and as long as I wrap up (gloves, hat, neck warmer) it`s not so bad! - 1/29/2011   6:51:28 PM
  • PICKANYNAME
    17
    Although I much prefer to soak up the daylight, particularly on a sunshiney day, I guess I'm just not a hard core outdoor runner, because if the temperature doesn't warm up to at least 45, I'm taking the treadmill route! - 1/29/2011   5:40:44 PM
  • 16
    Doing videos is looking more attractive with each paragraph! I guess I'm a weather wimp! - 1/29/2011   4:12:53 PM
  • BPOPE20101
    15
    I think walking in the snow is very refreshing.I love to see how many different animal tracks I could see. - 1/29/2011   2:44:57 PM
  • 14
    This is the first year I've run, so I'm learning alot about what to wear outdoors. I'm training for my first 1/2 marathon in May, and feel like I've got to keep at it. I'm in Indiana and the cold and snow has been worse than usual here as well. I absolutely love my UnderArmor compression tights and turtleneck. They really work well for my runs. I won't run outdoors if the temperature is 10 or wind chill 10 & below. I've also learned to run in my hiking shoes when the snow and ice are everywhere. We have to run on the road because so many people don't shovel their walks regularly. I know it's not the safest, but I use a reflective jacket, a flasher light, and a reflective velcro strip on my ankle. We avoid heavy traffic roads altogether, and run in the early AM before traffic is up and running. Mostly, I'm having fun and enjoying this new challenge. - 1/29/2011   1:30:05 PM
  • 13
    Because I have glasses, I cannot exercise in the winter. They tend to fog up really bad, especially if I have a scarf on, and makes it very difficult to see. Not that I like cold temperatures anyway. I also have a bronchial blockage that makes it even more difficult for me to breath when I attempt to exercise in colder weather. So, it's indoor exercise for me until it gets warm enough in spring. Then the gardening starts. - 1/29/2011   1:26:03 PM
  • 12
    I would never work out outside if I had to take this much preparation. I know myself! So that is one of the reasons my gym membership is so awesome. I can bundle up and then throw all of that extra clothing into a locker! - 1/29/2011   12:30:48 PM
  • 11
    Great tips b/c the cold here in Northern NM has really hurt me this January. I had three straight days of decent temps and it felt really good getting on track. Tues - Thurs isn't looking to good this coming week I will try these tips. Thanks - 1/29/2011   12:07:41 PM
  • 10
    No, I don't run outdoors if it's below about 30 degrees - no matter how much I bundle up, it's just not a pleasant experience for me! Another big obstacle (for me) that isn't directly related to the cold is the presence of snow/ice on a lot of the sidewalks and roads - it's dangerous out there. In my area, i wouldn't recommend outdoor running without something like yak trax or putting screws on the soles of (an older pair of) your running shoes. My biggest fear is slipping on a patch of ice and being out of commission forever!! So i'm a coward and just use the treadmill =) - 1/29/2011   11:52:56 AM
  • 9
    My DH and I walk for exercise but will call it off if the temperature is below freezing. I have finally figured out my layers for different decades of temperature, for example, temperature in the 40's is three pants layers and five upper body layers, hat, gloves and neck gaiter. I start the first mile of our walk (loop) with a hot cocoa and then dump the cup when we finish the mile and go by our car in the parking lot.
    Honestly we have more trouble with our exercise during the summer when temperatures are so hot and humid here in Texas. There are only so many layers that I'm willing to forgo for the sake of coolness! - 1/29/2011   11:13:24 AM
  • 8
    These tips are great for us walkers and snowshoers too. Smartwool can't be beat along with a warm but breathable wool hat. I love the idea of opening the hand warmers while getting ready. Now all we need out here are some colder temps and a good snowfall! If only the East would share out here in Boise! - 1/29/2011   11:11:52 AM
  • 7
    Kahtoola micro-spikes are my favourite ice/snow gear. I've used them for three years now, and swear by them. Go to www.kahtoola.com for a look-see. - 1/29/2011   9:53:21 AM
  • COLLOMR
    6
    God tips! I have continued hiking, walking, running and biking through the past 3 winters here in northern New Mexico (I think it's hardest to regulate body temperatures while biking because of getting so hot going uphill and then freezing while zooming downhill, plus your tires sling snow up on you). I also really enjoy skiing and snowshoeing. Layering and Smart wool are my two favorite things for winter workouts. As long as I keep my ears, hands and feet warm, I'm OK. I try to get clothing especially made for winter workouts to reduce bulkiness and potential wetness.
    I agree with poster #2 about screws vs. Yak-trax - the Yak-trax just didn't hold up as well for both hubby and me. He went through 2 pair last winter and finally decided to go with screws. When my Yak-trax recently broke, hubby installed screws on the bottom of my shoes. It works very well for us. - 1/29/2011   9:16:38 AM
  • COLLOMR
    5
    God tips! I have continued hiking, walking, running and biking through the past 3 winters here in northern New Mexico (I think it's hardest to regulate body temperatures while biking because of getting so hot going uphill and then freezing while zooming downhill, plus your tires sling snow up on you). I also really enjoy skiing and snowshoeing. Layering and Smart wool are my two favorite things for winter workouts. As long as I keep my ears, hands and feet warm, I'm OK. I try to get clothing especially made for winter workouts to reduce bulkiness and potential wetness.
    I agree with poster #2 about screws vs. Yak-trax - the Yak-trax just didn't hold up as well for both hubby and me. He went through 2 pair last winter and finally decided to go with screws. When my Yak-trax recently broke, hubby installed screws on the bottom of my shoes. It works very well for us. - 1/29/2011   9:16:38 AM
  • COLLOMR
    4
    God tips! I have continued hiking, walking, running and biking through the past 3 winters here in northern New Mexico (I think it's hardest to regulate body temperatures while biking because of getting so hot going uphill and then freezing while zooming downhill, plus your tires sling snow up on you). I also really enjoy skiing and snowshoeing. Layering and Smart wool are my two favorite things for winter workouts. As long as I keep my ears, hands and feet warm, I'm OK. I try to get clothing especially made for winter workouts to reduce bulkiness and potential wetness.
    I agree with poster #2 about screws vs. Yak-trax - the Yak-trax just didn't hold up as well for both hubby and me. He went through 2 pair last winter and finally decided to go with screws. When my Yak-trax recently broke, hubby installed screws on the bottom of my shoes. It works very well for us. - 1/29/2011   9:16:36 AM
  • 3
    Great blog coach Nancy. All of those things have made winter running not only something for me to do, but something that is actually fun.

    I think everyone should own a pair of yaktrax runner or not. They are awesome on packed snow and ice. Even if you just a wearing them across a slippery parking lot they could literally save from getting hurt.

    The coldest I have run so far in about 15 degrees farenheit, but if the wind isn't blowing I think I could go as low as 5. Any colder and my contacts start feeling like they are frozen to my eyeballs. - 1/29/2011   9:09:26 AM
  • 2
    Since the instant hand warmers take awhile to heat up, I open them up when I'm eating breakfast/getting ready and put them in my shoes. When I'm ready to start running, my handwarmers are at 100% and my shoes are warm.

    Also, I have recently discovered screw shoes. Buy 10 x 3/8" hex head screws and put about 10 or 12 in each shoe. MUCH cheaper and better than Yaktrax, which give me horrible blisters when I wear them for any distance beyond 10 miles.

    Hot water in the bottle takes longer to freeze. 2 hats. SMARTWOOL SOCKS. A pair of cheap gloves under the mittens - then you won't be exposing your hands when you need to grab a gel. Run on the side of the road facing traffic - that is usually plowed and in better condition than the sidewalk.

    I ran my LSD last weekend in -25 C temps and was quite warm throughout. - 1/29/2011   8:19:47 AM
  • 1
    Yesterday's 12+ mile long run was a prime example of a winter run. I was geared up just as Nancy listed in the article. I wore my new Buff gaiter for the first time and I loved it as it is so much easier than a scarf that flies around. Love it! Because I have a HM in 4 weeks I used my Amphipod fuel belt under my roomy jacket. I found it to be a pain but I dealt with it. Since this run took about 2 1/2 hours, the streets were starting to refreeze so i had to watch my footing due to ice. Ultimately I did come to the house and finished the last 2 miles on the treadmill due to the deteriorating street conditions. That is an example of running a loop close to home is good.

    I learned a few little things from this article and THANK YOU Coach! - 1/29/2011   8:18:51 AM

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