Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Warm up to Working Out, in Cold Weather!

             Even though it is November 23rd, this year we Chicagoans are secretly hoping winter will never come. Who can blame us? We have been enjoying gorgeous fall weather with temperatures in the 50's,60's and some 70's for most of October and November. (Yesterday was 68!) But as they say, all good things must come to an end and we know that the freezing cold and snow are undoubtedly headed our way!
     So now as we settle into our long cold winter, are we forced to workout only indoors?
     Not necessarily.
    Although there will surely be days that we can't workout outside, due to extreme cold, too much snow or icy conditions, there will be lots of opportunities to get our run on outdoors, breathe in some fresh air, and dream of spring....

   Some great benefits to exercising outdoors in the cold weather are....
* Running in the cool and cold temperatures can feel invigorating. I personally hate running when it is hot, so although the first few minutes of running in the cold feels like a shock, I actually really enjoy it once I warm  up!
*We often spend most of our time indoors during the winter months and the lack of natural sunlight can contribute to feelings of depression. Getting outside for 30 minutes a day when the sun is out, can make you feel much happier.
*We often don't have time to head to the gym, but we might have 30 minutes to squeeze in a quick walk/run. Exercising outside often is the most convenient way to get in your cardio when our time is limited.
* During the winter months if we don't go outside, we often lose a lot of the cardio gains we have made over the previous spring and summer.

  Benefits of exercising in the winter....
*Working out at a moderate intensity at least 5 days a week helps reduce number of colds you will get.
*Working out helps beat the stress of the holidays
* Studies have shown people do not lose the weight they gain over the holidays, so exercising in the winter, can really helps avoid that pitfall.

 However there are some concerns and precautions you need to be aware of before working out in the cold....
 Obviously, The biggest concern when we work out in the cold is excessive heat loss which can result in hypothermia and frostbite. The cold weather can also cause a generalized vasoconstriction that can increase peripheral resistance and blood pressure.  This can cause serious problems for people who are hypertensive or have heart disease. People with asthma should also be careful because the cold weather can decrease their lung function and may trigger an asthma attack.
 Here are some tips to stay safe while working out in the coldweather:
1.Wear Layers:
  The most important thing about working out in the cold is to stay warm and the best way to do this is to wear layers. You will want to have more layers on as you begin your workout and when you are finished. As you progress through your workout and your core temperature rises you will have the option of taking some layers off until you feel comfortable.
 Layering rules: 
Avoid wearing cotton material and tightly woven fabric close to your skin.
These materials will stay wet and therefore cannot provide a layer of dry air near the skin. This will increase the amount of heat your body loses as you exercise and increase your chill as you cool down.
  Instead, choose shirts and tights that are made from fabrics such as Polypropylene for your first layer against your skin. This layer should be tight against your skin so that it can protect you from the wind and chilly air. It will also wick away moisture from your skin and retain insulating properties that keep your body warm when wet.
  A good choice for a second layer should be wool,  or polyester to soak up moisture and give you a good layer of warmth.
 The third, outer layer can be a fabric such as gortex to keep the wind and chill out. You also want to choose a color that contrasts with the whiteness of the snow so that vehicles can see you clearly.  If you are exercising when there isn't a lot of light out. (Even during the day, the light can be very dim when it is cloudy out) Wear something that has a reflective material on it.

2. Wear a hat and scarf
  I know that a lot of women hate wearing hats! However, heat loss from your head and neck may be as much as 50 percent of the total heat being lost by your body. It is critical for you to wear a hat when exercising in the cold. Buy a hat that is made for exercise. It should have a lining inside that is made of a synthetic material to wick away moisture from your scalp and a warm outer layer that protects your head from the cold. Your scarf should also be made of the same moisture wicking material. Place it over your mouth when the air feels cold, to warm it up before it goes into your lungs.

3. Keep your hands and feet warm. 
  When it is cold out, our body keeps heat towards our core to protect our organs, so our fingers and toes lose heat first. Wear mittens and athletic socks made for exercising in cold weather.

4. Always check the air temperature and wind chill factor before exercising in the cold.
  Data from the National Safety Council suggest little danger to individuals with properly clothed skin exposed at 20° F, even with a 30 mph wind. However, a danger does exist for individuals with exposed skin when the wind-chill factor (a combined effect of temperature and wind) falls below –20° F. So if the weather is too cold, stay indoors for your workout until the temperature warms up a bit.

5. Stay hydrated!
  It's just as important to drink water before, during (if possible) and after exercising even when it's cold. When it's cold, we often don't feel as thirsty as when it is hot out. However, even if you don't feel thirsty, you are losing body fluids when you sweat and these must be replaced. You should aim for a 1:1 ratio of lost fluid to fluid replacement. A good guideline of how much to drink is to stay ahead of your thirst. You can check if you are drinking enough by the color of your urine. If it you are adequately hydrated your urine will be clear or a pale yellow. If it is dark, you need to increase your water intake. Coffee doesn't count as a hydrating beverage because caffeine actually dehydrates us. So drink water after your coffee!  Because everyone sweats at a different rate, a good general recommendation is to  drink 3-6 ounces of water for every 20 minutes of exercise.


6. Increase your warm up time and decrease intensity.
   Your muscles are less flexible when it is cold out so make sure you warm up for at least 5- 10 minutes before going into your full intensity to prevent an injury. Also, extreme temperatures can add stress to your body, so decrease the intensity of your workout when it is very cold.  Come inside to stretch when you are done, because as you cool down, you are more susceptible to getting chilled and your muscles will get cold fast.

7.Watch out for dangerous sidewalk and road conditions:
   Even if the sidewalks look clear there can be a thin layer of ice on them, especially early in the morning. So check the sidewalks and roads when you head out. Slowing down your pace, will help you assess the conditions of roads.

**Anyone with a medical condition should check with their doctor before working out in the cold weather. If you are working out in the cold and feel unwell, get help immediately****


  Here are a few links to some of my favorite cold weather gear products. My favorite brand is UnderArmour. Their clothes look great and really keep you warm! You can buy them online or they are available at Sporting Good stores in different colors!

***Women's Underarmour compression cold gear tights These are my favorite! These compression tights make your legs feel like you can run forever while keeping them warm! They are a must buy!!!

Cold Gear fleece Top- This top is great as an outer layer over the turtle neck or a second layer covered by another wind protecting layer. It's super soft and cozy! It comes in really nice colors. It has a little zip pocket on sleeve to keep a key and some money in and really keeps you warm.

Cold Weather Hat with lining This hat keeps you warm and wicks moisture from your head. It comes in cute colors too!

Cold Gear Turtle Neck These shirts are a PERFECT first layer. They are fitted so you don't get that frosty chill up your stomach and back and they pull the moisture away from you so you feel warm. They come in lots of great colors. Don't shy away from fitted clothes because you feel like you need to lose weight. You can wear something less tight over it, no one will see...

What are your favorite cold weather products? Let me know if you venture out in the cold and how it goes!!

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