Exercising outdoors this time of year can be a challenge. It’s cold. Riding bikes, rollerblading, running, walking and a number of other outside activities have to be done with caution. Winter is here and if you’re going to exercise outside this winter, there are some winter rules you should follow to be prepared for the weather.
When the weather changes, you don’t have to stop running or exercising outside but you should try to acclimate yourself to the changes. It’s best to get started with your workout before the weather turns. Start getting acclimated to the weather now by spending time outside every day and increase the time you spend outside gradually. If you work outside, your body usually has a chance to get acclimated to cold weather but you still need to be careful throughout the day and take it easy on those days when temperatures are extreme.
Don’t wear clothes that restrict your circulation. Wear loose fitting clothes in layers. You can wear spandex under sweatpants and wear legwarmers around my ankles to keep the lower leg warm and absorb shock. Wear 3-5 layers of lightweight clothing and don’t forget your knitted gloves. You can lose up to 40 percent of your body heat if your head is not covered so wear a hat or earmuffs. In extremely cold weather try to cover as much skin as possible. When jogging, walking and cycling at night or during the day, you should wear brightly colored clothes that are different from the landscape. Yellow is good because it never blends in. Red is great and orange will definitely be seen. White is great at night and you can also carry a light.
There’s no law that says you can’t warm up and cool down inside. You can also stretch inside. Once you’ve gotten your blood pumping indoors, those first few steps outside won’t feel as cold.
If you’re going to be running, run into the wind on your way out and with the wind on your way home. This will decrease the wind chill factor when you’re sweating the most. Avoid running in open areas. Buildings can help block chilling winds.
You should try to run, walk or bicycle with a friend and avoid isolated and poorly lit areas. If you use a route that others use or you go with a friend when working out you’ll be less likely to be a victim of foul play. Always let someone know what route you’re taking and when you expect to return. You should always carry phone change and identification. Don’t wear headphones, they make you less aware of traffic sounds, dogs, approaching strangers and they can cause problems with your equilibrium. Dress to be seen by traffic and follow pedestrian laws.
Being seen is important while bike riding. During the day a bike flag will help drivers notice you. A whistle will help to warn drivers if you need to get their attention. At night you’ll need reflectors, white or yellow for the front and red for the back. You can also put them on you pedals. Most state laws call for lights on the front and back if you’re riding during the night. Halogen lights and rechargeable batteries are best.
If you’re going to workout outside you should wear sunglasses. Everybody needs sunglasses, and not just in the summertime. Exposure to ultraviolet light over the years can damage the lenses of the eye. Any sunglasses are better than no sunglasses. Here is what you should look for in a pair of sunglasses. The tint is not what blocks ultraviolet light. It’s the special chemicals added when the lenses are made. Brown or amber tinted lenses block the sun’s rays best but they sometimes distort your vision. Gray and green lenses don’t block as much ultraviolet light but they don’t distort your vision. Wraparound frames are good as they block light above and below the eyes, but they shouldn’t block your side vision. Your sunglasses should be dark enough so you don’t see your eyes in a mirror. Plastic lenses are light but glass lenses don’t scratch as easily. Mirrored lenses offer extra protection against glare but scratches are a problem. Double gradient lens sunglasses are darker at the top and the bottom. These glasses are good for sports, such as tennis and skiing. These glasses are not good for highly reflective sports, such as bicycling and water sports. Everyone’s sunglasses needs are different but everyone needs sunglasses.
Drinking some type of fluid before exercising outside is always important, even during cooler months. It’s always good to drink fluids before, during and after your outdoor workout. Water is the best liquid you can drink before, during and after a workout. You should drink small amounts of water at 10- to 20-minute intervals. If you’re going to be outside more than 45 minutes, it’s a good idea to bring something to drink during your workout. Drinking water during your workout helps to increase your blood volume, which will increase cardiac output. Cardiac output is the amount of blood being pumped during each heartbeat. The more blood your heart pumps with each heartbeat the more nutrients are transported throughout the body.
These nutrients provide energy for work. Many people run out of steam during an exercise session because they don’t replace water lost through exercise. Studies show that drinking water before, during and after a workout increases energy production. This is true during hot and cold weather. Don’t wait until you become thirsty because by then it’s too late. Then your body will start to fatigue. As temperatures get lower, adjust your workout, even if you’re in good shape. If you’re overweight, slow down your workout pace. Your extra body fat and the cold will make your body work overtime. The body doesn’t store water very well, so if you drink a lot of it at one time your body will just get rid of it. Read your body, If it’s running out of energy or it seems affected by the cold, stop. You don’t want to stop working out just because it’s cold, but you should use a little common sense about fluids when working out in cold weather.
There are two medical conditions, hypothermia and frostbite, that can cause some serious problems during the winter months. Hypothermia is produced by a below normal body temperature that can lead to loss of consciousness, cardiac arrest and death if you don’t receive treatment. Frostbite is caused by long exposure to cold, which can freeze the skin and damage body tissue.
If either of these conditions should occur, call 911.
Whether you’re riding a bike, running, walking or skating you should ask yourself: have I taken all the steps I need to make my outdoor workout safe. Use a little common sense and make your outdoor workout safe.
Remember, it can be too cold outside to exercise.
Before starting your fitness program, consult your physician.
If you have a fitness question or concern, write to “Tips to be Fit,” PO Box 53443, Philadelphia, PA 19105 or send an email to email@example.com. Past articles can be found at www.phillytrib.com by searching “Tips to be Fit.”