Despite some of these 50 degree days, the days and nights are growing colder which might be putting a damper on your weekly workout routine. Do you like to be running, walking or biking out in the fresh air, but are a little concerned about withstanding the sinking temperatures? Just like exercising in the summer heat, winter outdoor exercise can be safe and fun if you plan appropriately. Here are some things to keep in mind before you head out on the next chilly morning.
Listen to the weather forecast before putting one foot out the door. Knowing the temperature and the wind chill index ahead of time can help you dress appropriately. Usually a combination of layers work best, but knowing how many layers and when to add facemasks and gloves are best determined by the forecast. You don't want to get out there and have your workout cut short because you are either freezing or sweating.
Wind chill levels below minus 18 F can lead to frostbite on exposed skin so make sure you take note of not only the temperature for the day, but the wind chill levels too. Even if you are only outside for a half hour in these conditions, your extremities are at risk for frostbite.
Dress in layers. Even in the cold, your body works up a sweat during exercise so layering the right types of fabrics on your body is crucial to your health and safety. Workout gear made with a wicking material as your first layer of defense will keep you dry and warm and then add heavier protection on top. That way if you get too warm, you can always strip off a layer. Don't forget to cover your head , hands and ears as well and wear proper footgear.
Recognize the signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Listen to your body and know when it's time to head indoors to the warmth even if you haven't trekked as long as you wanted to. Frostbite is a serious injury where your skin and the tissue beneath become frozen from too much cold exposure. In severe cases it can lead to gangrene. Any numbness or stinging sensation is a cause of concern.
Hypothermia occurs when your body loses so much heat that it begins to have trouble regulating its core temperature. Warning signs according to the Mayo Clinic include shivering, slurred speech, sleepiness and balance issues. Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect frostbite or hypothermia.
Drink up. Dehydration is not just a concern for summertime. Make sure you drink enough water before and during your workout to replenish your body's liquids. Remember that despite the chill temperatures, you are still working up a sweat.
Don't forget to warm up your muscles before heading out. While warm-ups and stretching is important all year round, it is especially crucial in the winter because it takes longer for your muscles to warm up.
If there is a big winter storm in the forecast, consider taking your workout indoors at least until the wet and slippery conditions subside. Your health and safety should always be your number one priority.