The chill in the air can put a damper on your outdoor workout routine, but it doesn't have to stop you in your tracks. There are simple ways to keep your fitness going strong through the fall and approaching winter months. TOPS Club, Inc.® (Take Off Pounds Sensibly®), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, offers the following tips for how to have a safe and effective cool weather workout routine.
1. Dress in layers.
For best results, wear layers that can be removed and put back on as needed. Start with a thin layer of synthetic material such as polypropylene, which "wicks" sweat away from the body. For a middle layer, add fleece for insulation. Top with a waterproof, breathable layer. A good rule of thumb is to dress for a day 20 degrees warmer; this allows for the body heat generated by exercising. Wind makes a cold day feel colder, so knowing the wind chill factor can help exercisers plan what to wear on breezy days.
2. Get the right gear.
Trail-running shoes with deeper treads will provide better traction and help prevent slipping on wet or icy roads and sidewalks, no matter the activity. Some styles are even water-resistant and have removable spikes on the outsole. Investing in a set of winter cleats, which slip on over your running sneakers, will also be effective. If you're exercising while it's dark out, wear reflective clothing, too.
3. Fire up.
Cold temperatures make your body less flexible and more prone to injuries, so warm up – and cool down – indoors. Warm muscles burn fat more readily than cold muscles, resulting in muscle elasticity that helps prevent injuries. A warm-up also helps improve the function of the nervous system and the heart. Consider walking quickly around the room, doing jumping jacks, or jumping rope.
4. Skip the hills and stay safe.
Whether you're running, cross-country skiing, hiking, or snowshoeing, stick to safer routes with less risk for falls and slips. More falls occur on downhill slopes because it's difficult to stop if you hit an icy patch. Stay close to shelter, and don't go out alone. Having an exercise buddy is always a good idea for safety – and encouragement. It's a lot easier to work out in the chilly air when you have a committed friend waiting.
5. Don't get comfortable until after your workout.
With cool temperatures and dreary weather, it's hard not to run straight to the sofa in your most comfortable clothes following a long day. Don't settle in until you've completed your workout, though. Change from your work clothes directly into workout wear when you get home to boost your motivation and deter the temptation to curl up on the couch. Or, work on getting to bed earlier so you can exercise first thing the next morning, before a busy day is more likely to crowd out your fitness routine.