Winterize your workouts, but don’t forget to take your gloves

Though you might still be getting outside for workouts in light, summertime gear, winter is just around the corner and it’s never too early to start looking for alternatives.

Winterizing your workout is important for staying safe but active during the harsh months, but that doesn’t mean retreating fully to the gym.

“There are plenty of ways to safely enjoy outdoor workouts in the winter,” said Geisinger board certified chiropractic sports physician, Dr. Jon A. Carlson, “but it’s important to be prepared and listen to your body.”

Plus, it might be an acquired taste, but studies have shown that you burn more fat when exercising in colder temperatures.

“The research suggests that your body burns calories while exercising, in addition to using fat stores meant to keep your body warm,” Carlson said. However, there is such thing as too much of a good thing.

Here are a few things to think about while transitioning your regimen.

Know the forecast

Always check the forecast before heading outside for your morning run.

“The risk of frostbite is low unless the temperature is in the negatives,” Carlson said. “However, that risk climbs with higher wind or wet conditions.”

If the temperature falls below zero degrees Fahrenheit or there is precipitation in the forecast, it’s best to move your workout inside.

If you are heading out into the elements, don’t fall into the trap of overdressing. Instead, incorporate several layers that allow for versatility if you get too warm, while keeping you dry. Options like lightweight fleece and technical fabric are ideal, thanks to their moisture-wicking design, warmth and breathability.

“It’s also important to keep your extremities warm, as they are much more vulnerable to frostbite,” Carlson said. “A hat, gloves and thick socks are must-have equipment for an outdoor workout.”

Skip the intervals and keep stretching

When planning your fall or wintertime workouts, make sure to incorporate a warm-up and remember that interval activities, such as wind sprints or drop sets, make you more vulnerable to the cold.

“With interval exercises, you heat your body up and work up a sweat, just to slow down and have that moisture left behind,” Carlson said. “As your body temperature drops, the cold air will bring down the temperature of damp clothes and give you a chill.”

Before you start your workout, go for a light jog instead of stretching to warm up your muscles. A warm-up is important, but stretching cold muscles could do more harm than good. Instead, consider dynamic, in-workout stretching or waiting until you come in from the cold.

“Stretching is vital for healthy muscles, especially after they tighten in the cold,” he said. “But stretching cold muscles may cause injuries instead of improving elasticity and support for your joints.”

Try inside

Cold-weather workouts can be grueling, and it’s nice to give yourself the occasional break. Plus, if you’re missing high-intensity interval training or short sprints, it’s best to cross-train in a less taxing environment.

“Joining a gym to bring your workout inside allows for exercises like weight lifting or yoga that don’t have your heart pumping to stay warm,” Carlson said. “Plus, a heated pool or trip to the sauna can be a welcome relief after all of that cold.”


This is one in a continuing series of articles on sports and medicine provided by Geisinger.


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