The following article was written by Kimberly Burke, director of the Adult Fitness Program at CSU.
As another beautiful fall season unwinds there are some ways to take advantage of the fall without feeling the effects of the approaching winter. Many people transition to outdoor exercises over the summer months, and then slowly retreat back indoors. But exercising outdoors does not have to be hindered by cold weather. Here are a few simple ways to stay warm out in the cold.
Always warm up
It is important to avoid sudden exertion by going through a proper warm-up. In colder weather muscles will take longer to warm up, so warming up an extra 5-10 minutes is encouraged. Properly warmed muscles will help to prevent injury and enables longer exercise.
It’s OK to decrease intensity
When temperatures drop the body responds by constricting its arteries to keep the core temperature higher. In doing so the heart has to work harder to pump blood through a narrower space, adding to the extra load created by exercising. So don’t be surprised if running as long or hard in colder weather is difficult. Don’t worry; every workout does not have to be a marathon.
Easy removal and addition of clothing is key; aim for wearing layers that can be zipped/unzipped quickly. That way there’s no need to stop in the middle of a workout and it allows the body to better adjust to temperature changes. Always make sure to have a hat and scarf, because as much as 40 percent of body heat is lost through the head. Just as importantly, keep hands and feet properly covered to prevent heat loss. Pay attention to the forecast to not be caught in unexpected weather.
Avoid alcoholic beverages
Winter months can bring about some great brews and they’re hard to pass up in Fort Collins, but it is best to avoid them prior to a workout. The initial sensation of warmth from drinking alcohol is from blood vessels on the skins surface dilating. This in turn causes warmth to be drawn away from vital organs, which during cold weather is not ideal. It is the complete opposite of the body’s natural instincts and feedback responses.
Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen
It is always important to stay hydrated, even when it is cold outside. It’s important to know that thirst doesn’t mean you’re dehydrated. Thirst is actually a delayed response to dehydration, and dehydration is often harder to catch in cold weather. Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after a workout. Don’t forget the sunscreen; getting sunburned isn’t just for the summer, especially since Fort Collins is nearly a mile high. Look for sunblock that provides UVA/UVB protection and keep those sunglasses handy.
CSU’s Adult Fitness Program offers exercise opportunities for employees of CSU as well as community members, while providing hands-on learning experiences for health promotion students.