How to Exercise in Cold Winter Weather

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How to stay safe and warm during winter workouts such as running By Kristin Sidorov
When the weather outside is frightful, it can be all too tempting to hunker down, hibernate, and avoid working out. But colder weather is no excuse to give up on your fitness goals. Finding a winter workout plan that’s right for you is all about attitude and a little creativity. These motivational tips and techniques will keep you on track through the year’s toughest months.

Warm Up!
Outdoors, staying warm is crucial to a safe workout—not to mention an enjoyable one. Luckily, there’s tons of gear out there designed to do just that. Who says Santa can’t come early? Under Armour, REI, Asics, and Athleta carry cute, comfy tops, pants, gloves, neck warmers, and headgear designed to keep warmth in and sweat out. Be sure to wear layers; they allow for flexibility (you can shed a few if you get too hot) and are the most effective method of staying warm. Always protect your extremities—running gloves are essential, as are quality performance socks like SmartWool, which wick away moisture while keeping your toes toasty.

Warming up also applies to your muscles. Colder weather can tighten muscles, making you more prone to injury. Give yourself time to stretch out inside, and always be sure to give yourself enough time to really warm up muscles and get your blood circulating before engaging in more intense physical activity. Try a light jog or jumping jacks, combined with some stretching that focuses on the the muscles you’ll be using during your workout. And don’t forget to balance it out with a cool-down after your workout, too. Slow your pace, stretch out again, and relax.

Keep It Fun
It’s natural to assume that the winter’s colder temperatures, shortened days, and snowy weather will limit your workout options, but you’d be surprised by how many exciting activities the winter actually affords. Cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and winter hiking are all great options. Even sledding can be a workout—and you won’t even notice as you hike up that hill all day. Whenever the sun peeks through the clouds, get outside and soak it up, even if it’s just for a walk. It’ll help lighten your mood and beat back those winter blues.

If you’re not the outdoor adventure type, there are still plenty of indoor workouts you can do at home or at the gym. Pilates, yoga, spinning, Zumba, weight training, jumping rope, and dancing are all easy ways to stay fit indoors. If you have a Wii or a Kinect, use it to your advantage. As the holidays approach, use your errands and shopping as a way to get moving—park further away at the mall, speed walk, and take the stairs. Just keep moving, and you’ll burn more calories while being festive.

Motivation can be the hardest part of winter exercise. Start now and you’ll already be ahead of the game. Find something you really like and stick to it. A workout buddy is also a great way to stay on top of your goals. You’ll motivate each other (with a little tough love, if necessary) and it’s always better to have someone to share your triumphs (and gripes) with, right? It’s also a good idea to set a goal for yourself—focusing on bikini season, signing up for a 10K in the spring, or maybe just fitting into a favorite old dress that’s a bit too snug. Eyes on the prize!

Stay Safe
Winter activities can pose a new set of risks, so be sure to plan ahead as you begin your winter workout schedule. Shorter days mean exercising when it’s still dark out, so don’t forget to wear reflective clothing and keep your workouts to safe, well-lit areas. Pay attention to extreme weather changes: Going running in freezing rain or skiing during sub-zero wind chills simply isn’t worth the risk to your health and well being.

The right gear can make all the difference. Avoid getting chilled by wearing breathable, sweat-wicking clothing, and proper footwear that’s waterproof and has traction (we like the very affordable YakTrax Pro, which you can slip on over your regular shoes and boots). Protective helmets are a good idea when skiing or snowboarding, and hand and toe warmer packs are a good idea if you’re going outside for a longer period of time.

Don’t forget that even though it’s cold outside, you’re still exposed to the elements, including the sun. Sunscreen is a year-round staple for outdoor activities, and during the winter you’ll also want to protect your lips with an SPF lip balm to prevent painful chapping. The cold also doesn’t necessarily prevent sweating—especially if you’re wearing the right clothing and you’re exercising at your proper heart rate! Be sure to hydrate just as much as you would during the summer months.

Tell Us: How do you stay motivated to keep up your workouts during the winter months?

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