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Winter Workout Safety Tips

How Cold is Too Cold?


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  • My husband and I have been known to just tromp around up and down our driveway in really cold (to us Kansas wimps) weather - it's boring but we are safer the our neighborhood curves banking road that ices up really bad. The other thing I have noticed about these hyperthermia issues is that some (not all) of the symptoms are very much like the symptoms of dehydration. We tend to have dry cold in Kansas and it's easy to notice "cardiac creep" - even though we don't "feel thirsty", we are dehydrating because the cold dry wind just saps the water out of our bodies. (That's why laundry hung out to dry on the clothesline dries so fast! Sure, it is hard as a board, but once inside the house it softens up and it's dry!). So we have seen that we seem to last longer in the dry cold if we are careful to drink water often (and we don't seem to need to use the loo any more than usual...). Of course, if you have a medical condition and your doctor says to stay indoors and not drink as much water, then of course you need to do what is best for you. I'm just sharing some of our experiences.
  • Don't forget frostbite!!!
  • The dangers of ice and snow are all to real. My sister slipped and fell on ice that was covered by fresh snow. She broke her leg and needed two surgeries to insert a rod and screws. She was out of commission "workout" wise for almost two years because it took that long to heal. Be careful out there. Getting that run in is not worth serious injury.
  • ABBYK123
    I really get frustrated with a lot of the weather related comments…I live on the Canadian prairies where it has been -35 to -48 and our runners and snowshoe clubs are active daily.Its all in education and an investment in adequate winter gear and how to use it with full facial masks similar to snowmobilers but lighter.Exercise is a daily must here in preventing seasonal affect disease,depression and just plain obesity, and let's face it my life here is winter Nov-April if we are lucky!
  • Too bad almost the entire winter here is extremely cold with high wind, snow and ice. Thank goodness for treadmills.
  • This year I decided to join a marathon training group and we have ran in single and just barely over single digit temperatures. I don't like being cold so I do layer. I was nervous my first run day, but I found 'wicking' shirts and running pants that keep me quite warm so layering does work.
  • RENA1965
    I find walking in all weather has hardened my immunesystem up 100% I use the many layers system and am always toasty warm even at -18 plus.. I also wear skiing glasses so the cold weather doesn't sting my eyes or vehicles flick ice up in my face.. I don't run in snow weather because a person can never know if there is a solid layer of slippery ice under the snow and fall...
    I also keep my mp3 and pedometer tucked in within layers of clothing- these can switch off at very low tempers..
    The Article should make note that those with Sever Health Conditions such as Heart Disease and Asthma, should NOT expose themselves to such extreme cold temperatures and be involved in strenuous activities. Doing so could bring on a heart attack, stroke, or worse- sudden death. This happened to my Father In Law just clearing snow from his wind shield in about 32* temps. Take Care.
  • This helped me understand what happened on my bike yesterday. My normal 90 min ride took me 105 and I was weak and exhausted which is unusual. Who would have thought in AZ I would have this problem. This is the coldest winter I remember. We actually got snow and it NEVER stays on the ground and this lingered in shade for more than two days. I will dress warmer!
  • Great article. I lived in Chicago years ago and was pregnant and had to go out in -14 weather at night to a meeting. I got caught in a strong wind walking from the college parking lot and by the time I got into the building I was having uncontrollable shaking. There happened to be a doctor at the meeting who attended to me. Afterwards, I got a lecture on how being 8-months pregnant was an added risk for hypothermia. Security brought my car to the door when I was ready to go home.
  • This is a great motiving article! We live in Wisconsin and my husband is training for a marathon in February down in the much warmer South. I'm not running, but am biking a metric century (100 km/64 miles), so I need to keep up my training also. We have been hitting a local trail each weekend; it goes for miles and has a three mile hike around a beautiful lake. It has been a great winter of working out! Usually we are alone out there, and it has snowed several times. I feel sorry for the people who usually swarm these trails for missing out on the beautiful snow-covered scenery! :) (Although, we were out yesterday and some Boy Scouts were there, having a sled dog event. Very cool!)

    But, as the article points out, if you use some common sense about what to wear then being outside in the cold air is fine. We have been fine in wind chills consistently below zero (but our water bottles started to freeze up a little bit - which was different!). Just dress for the weather and think about what you are doing. I have definitely discovered there is no reason to stay inside just because it is cold. It has been a great winter!
  • I love exercising outdoors here in NJ during the winter months. Unless there is ice, I've even gone out in a snowstorm. I wear layers and of course my Under Armour coldgear...the feeling of exhileration I get after returning is totally amazing.
  • Good reminders! My friend and I are avid walkers, even in the coldest weather. Our rule is to stay inside (snuggled up with our hubbies) if it's less than 10 degrees outside, snowing, raining, or winds of over 20 mph in the winter. We've been doing this for a couple of years now and, despite needing to spend 15 minutes layering up in the morning, it works well!
    Wow! Great comments, ideas, and suggestions from everyone. This is a great expansion on what I wrote in this article. It is very hard to define 'extreme cold' because there really is no set standard that fits eveyone (as one poster stated!). Other conditions such as age, weight, acclaimation levels, current fitness levels are all factors that will affect how well a person tolerates cold weather. I enjoy running outside and would think nothing about going out when the temps drop into the teens. However, I would not encourage my parents (who are in thier late 70's) or my kids (9 and 4) to go with me.

    I think my point is that winter does not mean hybernating inside and abandoning your outdoor pursuits. I have too many people tell me that they were doing so well with thier walking or exercise outside "until it got cold". I know I get alot of funny looks from passing motorists sometimes when I am outside running. I guess they just couldn't imagine being outside let alone running!

    As another poster pointed out, layering is key and also wearing the appropriate materials ("technical fabrics" like polyester, wicking fabric, duodry, etc...) which serve to draw perspiration away from the skin and/or serve better at holding body heat. One misnomer though, it is common to hear the myth that cold air can freeze your lungs but this is not true. The cold air may irritate your throat and lungs but your lungs cannot freeze as once air that is taken in reaches the lungs it is warmed to body temperature. It may feel like your lungs are freezing but they aren't!

    If you are wondering if it is too cold, try it out but stay close to home. If you just find that you cannot get warm, go back in. That might be a good sign. Also, for all the runners and walkers, begin your route into the wind if you are going "out and back". That way the wind will be to your back on your way back. If you are a little sweaty then it won't be as cold.

    Thanks for all the great comments!
  • A friend who grew up in Minnesota had a chest x-ray when he was middle-aged. The doctor asked about my friend's 'horrible bout with pneumonia that left all that scar tissue on his lungs." My friend never had pneumonia, but grew up playing ice hockey outdoors...the cold air froze his lungs repeatedly and scarred them! You tell me, how cold is too cold? It's not always the outward symptoms, but, obviously, cold temperatures can do internal damage.

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