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Don't Let Winter Get in the Way of Your Workout

Por Leslie Rodríguez, RD, LD* -

During the cold winter months, many people tend to spend less time exercising. If you quit your exercise routine to sit in front of a cozy fireplace, you will lose everything you have gained up to that point. Instead, bundle up, open the door, and go outside!

Remember to warm up before, and cool down after exercising. Also, eat and drink enough, and work out at the right pace.

Even if it's freezing outside you can still take a walk or go running, but only if you're well protected against the cold. Your body loses most of its heat through your hands and head. Therefore, wear gloves, and a hat that will cover your ears when you go for a walk or a run. Mittens protect your hands from the cold better than gloves because they keep your fingers together, helping to maintain body heat. The downside is that they can be a bit uncomfortable.

Cover up well 

Wear layers so your body is well protected from the cold. The first layer should consist of a t-shirt that can absorb humidity. This type of shirt (made from polypropylene) can be found at any sporting goods store. The t-shirt will draw moisture away from the body, and keep the skin dry. If the first layer is a cotton garment, it will get wet as soon as you start to sweat and this will cause you to be much colder. The second layer should be made from an insulating fabric such as wool. It's best that it have a zipper so you can open it and let air in when you get hot. These two layers should be enough, but if it's really windy, you may need an external layer. This last layer should be lightweight, thin, and water- and wind-resistant. A raincoat or a sweater will work fine. Take it off and tie it around your waist when you get hot.

You should also protect your face. Use moisturizing sunscreen and sunglasses to protect yourself from the wind. If your chest is cold when you exercise outside, cover your face with a scarf or a bandana and breathe through your slightly covered nose and mouth.

Wearing tights or waterproof pants should be enough to protect your legs from the cold. The lower extremities are not as sensitive to cold as  your hands, feet and chest. If it is very cold and windy, wear thermal underwear underneath wind-resistant pants.

You should wear shoes with a thick, skid-free sole. Flat soled shoes may cause you to slip on ice or snow that accumulates on the sidewalks and streets.

During winter you may want to exercise when the sun is out so you can take advantage of the relatively warmer daytime temperatures. Also, you will be able to see and avoid layers of ice that form on the sidewalk and paths. If you work out at night, remember to wear bright-colored clothes that are easily visible at night. Stay on the sidewalk, and jog or walk in the opposite direction of traffic in order to see approaching vehicles.

After exercising outside when it is cold, put on a jacket or coat over your clothes, completely change your clothes, or make sure to go into a warm environment to avoid post-exercise hypothermia. Hypothermia happens when your body tries to reduce the production of heat as it is using its reserves of stored heat.

Eat and drink enough

Just because you're not sweating a lot, it does not mean that you aren't exercising properly, or that you don't need to drink plenty of liquids. When the weather is dry and cold, it doesn’t feel like we are sweating, but we really are. So, don't forget to hydrate yourself by drinking water or sport drinks, and eat a balanced diet to warm up and get your motor going.

Cold weather reduces the flexibility of muscles and tendons, so a warm-up is essential before starting your exercise routine. If you start exercising with stiff muscles you run a greater risk of tearing or pulling a muscle, or getting a sprain. Therefore, warm up by walking outside at a slower pace than your normal exercise routine for 10 minutes. You can increase the pace little by little. You can also try warming up your muscles inside your house by stretching or walking/jogging in place until you feel yourself beginning to perspire, and then go outside and start your normal routine.

If all the previous options don't work and the weather is severe, exercise indoors. There are a lot of options for exercising indoors such as exercise videos or a treadmill ,stationary bike or any other type of exercise or strength training equipment. Also try going to an indoor pool to do aquatic workouts such as water aerobics or swimming. Most importantly, remember that winter is not an excuse to leave your fitness goals behind.

*Specialist in sports nutrition and physical activity at MyDiet™


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