Cold Weather Exercise


As we are going through a very cold spell, I thought it would be timely to talk about cold weather exercise. I have set out 5 tips below:

1. Importance of warming up: While you should always warm up before you walk or run, this is especially true in colder weather. This is because muscle strains and pulls are more likely to occur in cold weather because the muscles do not “warm up” as quickly as they do in warmer conditions.

2. Warming up is not stretching: It is very important to remember they are two different activities. You are more likely to injure a muscle by stretching it in cold weather.

The best way to warm up in cold weather is to walk or run very slowly for about 5 minutes and then gradually increase your pace but still walk or run slowly for another 5 minutes. At this point you can transition into your normal pace or if you like to stretch now is the time to do it with much lower risk of injury.

Cold Weather Exercise3. Please No Cotton: While you should avoid cotton at any time it is especially true when the weather is cold. This is because cotton absorbs sweat (and rain) and you will get cold very quickly and this increases the risk of hypothermia. By contrast moisture management apparel wicks the moisture away much more effectively, helping you to retain an even body temperature.

4. Cover Your Extremities: Head, hands and feet – COVER THEM! Keeping your extremities warm will help keep your entire body warmer. Your feet will stay warm as long as they are dry so try to avoid puddles. If your feet do get wet and turn cold, get indoors quickly and get them back to normal temperature. Make sure you wear moisture wicking socks and if you prefer you can wear heavier ones during the winter. If you wear cotton, they will absorb moisture whether from your sweat, rain and puddles and your feet are much more likely to get cold.

As much as 50% of your body heat is lost through your head so it is critical to keep it covered when it is very cold outside. A hat will do the trick and this will also cover your ears and keep them warm as you run. Fingers and hands are also vulnerable in the cold so wearing a moisture wicking pair of gloves is also important.

5. The Importance of Layering: Wearing multiple layers allows your sweat to more easily escape, while simultaneously holding in more heat so that you stay warmer and drier. The temperature will vary depending on the time of day you exercise. Walk or run during the day and you will probably only need one long sleeve layer but most early mornings or late evenings will require two or three layers for the upper body. The FIRST layer (layer closest to your skin) should wick moisture away from your skin and move it to the next layer. The MIDDLE layer should further insulate the body while it still wicks moisture outward. Middle layers are often a bit heavier and are used in very cold conditions. You can wear it with a base layer on colder days or as a stand alone on moderately cold days.

Whether you choose a jacket, shell or vest, the OUTER layer should protect you against cold, wind, rain or snow while still allowing perspiration to evaporate. A breathable, wind resistant, water resistant or water proof jacket is perfect in many climates.

Lower Body Layering: Your legs generate heat and need less protection than the upper body. In many climates you will be able to exercise during the day without wearing clothes to protect your legs. However at night (and early mornings) and in extreme temperatures (below freezing), a heavy fleece lined tight or pant will work or you could wear two layers.

Between zero degrees Fahrenheit and approximately 45 degrees, a moderate weight tight should be comfortable. Above 45 degrees, your legs should feel fine uncovered, once you are five to ten minutes into your walk run but this is a personal choice often based on where you live!

By Jim Kirwan

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