The clock strikes midnight on January 1 with the best of intentions. You’re going to get up with the roosters and hit the ground running every morning on the way to a healthier version of yourself.
And then you walk outside and are met with frigid temperatures and your resolve freezes and then melts quickly away. It doesn’t have to be that way, though.
If you take precautions, you can still work out when the weather turns chilly.
Wear the right clothing
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) says clothing is critical. Although a double-thick cotton sweatshirt may seem like a good choice, it doesn’t insulate nearly as well as synthetic fabrics like lightweight polyester or polypropylene.
And don’t make the mistake of overdressing. You can overheat even in below-freezing temperatures. If you dress too warmly, you’ll sweat a lot. Then, when cold winds hit, perspiration will rapidly evaporate, chilling you. You want to limit perspiration and keep it away from both your skin and the outside air.
Layering is key
The ACSM recommends that you wear a synthetic material like polypropylene against your skin. This will allow the sweat to pass through the fabric away from your body. The second layer should be wool, polyester, or fleece for primary insulation. The third layer should be chosen for its ability to keep the cold air, wind, and rain out. This layer should be something lightweight and artificial.
Layering also helps regulate your temperature. If you get too warm, you can strip off a layer.
You can lose a tremendous amount of heat through your uncovered head, so wear a hat, cap or hood, the ACSM says.
Your feet get cold first. Wear the right boots or shoes. Insulate them with warm socks and keep them dry.
Your hands are also more susceptible to cold. Gloves or mittens should be worn to keep your them warm. Choose mittens over gloves, because the fingers can warm each other and the mitten decreases the exposed surface area.
Don’t forget fluids
If you can see your breath, you’re seeing moisture leave your body. So, drink plenty of fluids, particularly if the air is cold and dry, says the ACSM. Drink water before you go out, and bring some with you. Don’t drink alcohol though. Alcohol makes you lose heat.
Don’t overdo it
Cold is a stress on the body, and so is exercise. Together they may be too much for someone not in the best of health. Talk to your health care provider before you start a winter exercise program.
People who have diabetes, who take certain medications, or who are older are at greater risk that their body temperature will drop in cold weather.
Stay indoors if you have to
There are plenty of good alternatives when it’s just too cold to go outside. If you like to run, a treadmill can be an option. If cycling is more your speed, find a gym that has a spin class and see if they offer month-to-month memberships to get you through the winter.
Don’t let temperatures outside freeze your resolve to make this year the healthiest yet. With a little planning, you will be looking and feeling better when warm weather rolls around.