Cold temperatures and wintry weather are setting in across much of the country, but that doesn't mean you have to take your outdoor workout routine back inside. If you're used to running, biking or hiking outdoors, you can easily adjust to the dropping temperature.
"While cold weather is at times uncomfortable, it's rarely cold enough to negatively impact your training," says Jonathan Cane, a New York-based endurance running coach and co-founder of City Coach Multisport.
Before you pull out the "it's too cold for a run" excuse, read on:
Think It's Too Cold? Think Again!
It's only as cold as you think it is. At least that's what fitness expert and trainer Ben Greenfield says.
"I exercise frequently in very cold conditions, and have found that it's only cold if you think cold thoughts," Greenfield says. "I never dwell on or think about being cold, and this seemingly simple technique helps quite a bit!"
If you know that you're going to continue to train outdoors in the winter months, Greenfield recommends "cold acclimating" while the weather is still warm. "Use cold showers, cold baths and even cooling vests or pants to not only enhance your calorie-burning, but also make you mentally and physically tougher in cold conditions," he says.
Winter is not the time to skimp on your warm-up. As Cane explains, a warm-up "literally warms and raises your body temperature, lubricates your joints and brings blood flow to the working muscles, which are more susceptible to injury otherwise."
Greenfield recommends completing your warm-up before you hit the street.
"By staying indoors and doing jumping jacks, push-ups, treadmill or bicycling for the first few minutes before you go outside, you'll feel toasty when you finally do head outdoors."
Dress the Part.
The dropping temperatures mean you'll need to bundle up, but be careful not to go overboard as your body temperature will rise quickly once you get moving.
“If you dress warmly enough that you’re comfortable when you walk out the door, you’ll likely overheat real quickly during the run,” advises Cane. He suggests dressing for your outdoor workout as though it were 10 to 20 degrees warmer than it actually is. On his must-have list of cold weather gear is wicking fabric (to wear as a base layer) and runner's gloves.
With cold weather comes shorter days and earlier sunsets, so it's imperative to take the appropriate precautions. Invest in reflective clothing to increase your visibility after the sun goes down, and don't forget to take into consideration the way the terrain you normally cover changes in the winter months.
"With winter comes gravel, ice, and less-than-ideal road conditions, so you may need to get shoes with better traction, knobby tires on your bike, or even special "chains" that you can put on the bottom of your shoes for decreasing slippage," says Greenfield.
Keep Your Head Up.
Shrugged shoulders and ducked heads tend to be natural responses to the cold, so pay close attention to your form when you're exercising outdoors.
“My main peeve about running in the cold is that runners often alter their form,” Cane says. Make sure you are not "running hunched over or excessively stressed,” he adds.
If an indoor workout is more your speed, keep an open mind when it comes to taking your routine out in the cold.
"You’ll find that exercise in the great outdoors also becomes less predictable, which causes your body to experience inefficiency, a good thing for your metabolism," Greenfield explains. "The dips, hills, turns and obstacles in a trail run will burn more calories and strengthen a greater number of muscles and ligaments than a single-direction, indoor treadmill run."
With these pieces of advice in mind, get out there and don't let the cold weather be your excuse for not staying in shape this winter.