Exercising Outside in the Cold

Katie Woodilla

Winter is coming!

With people less eager to get outside and get moving around, the importance of maintaining our body’s activity level increases significantly.

Colder temperatures bring some legitimate changes to our internal and external environments, and these changes can drastically alter our workout performance.
Our bodies react differently when cold is introduced, especially when exercising. Our bodies have a higher caloric expenditure on a day-to-day basis from simply trying to maintain a core temperature of 98.6 degrees.

During the late fall and early winter, our basal metabolic rate increases. In order to maintain an appropriate core temperature, the central nervous system cranks up a notch to stave off the external effects of the colder temperatures. This subconscious action of the human body requires us to maintain our blood sugar levels high to accommodate our muscles’ needs. A simple 30-minute workout in the summer will feel very different in the fall/winter. Keeping your hydration levels and caloric intake up is key to feeling your best.

It is important to understand, too, that training outside in the cold will equate to slightly different intensity levels; your maximum effort changes with the elements. During the summer months, you may have been a puddle of sweat by pushing your body to the limit. In the winter months, you may be struggling to keep up with your previous achievements. During any season and moving around at any intensity, make sure to rest as much as you need to. It does not necessarily mean to lower any specific weights you are using, but rather to take a few extra minutes to evaluate the number of sets and repetitions you are doing and making any needed adjustments.

When you do exercise, please take more time focusing on your warm-up and cool down. Dynamic stretches before you begin your workout prepare your body for movement patterns to perform that day. I always relate warm-up motions to pizza dough. Sounds crazy, but hear me out. If you try to take pizza dough out of the fridge/freezer and move it in any direction, it will most likely either not move or break. Breaking does NOT sound fun. The more you knead the dough however, the greater it will stretch. It allows you to move it and mold it in any direction you want and leads to your body being at less risk of injury. Take your time with your muscles, you will thank yourself later.

Think about extending your warm-up times by a few minutes, depending on the conditions. When it comes to your post-workout cool down, plan accordingly. Protection against wind, ice, and snow is no joke. If you plan on being outside during any part of your workout, be conscientious about what you are wearing. Light layers, moisture-wicking fabrics, and protective coverings for your head, hands, and neck will go a long way.

Lastly, whether or not you are exercising at high intensities, it is important to drink plenty of water to keep the body as hydrated as possible. It appears obvious, but many of us neglect it. Dehydration can lead to multiple health risks such as fainting spells, fatigue, headaches, and a general decrease in energy. Hydration is key when keeping our bodies in the best condition, especially when the body expels so much more energy to keep us moving. Fatigue comes upon us quickly. We have to watch ourselves to make sure we are drinking water consistently throughout the entire day.

That’s all for now! Stay safe, stay covered, and stay healthy. Don’t let the snowflakes deter you from achieving your goals. Adapt as needed and crush it.

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