While I am a big fan of spending some time outdoors EVERY DAY, exercising outside in the winter months can be tricky. We have all had our hands or feet get wet while skiing or sledding, which can lead to frostbite, or at least a very painful couple hours apres ski. Here are some precautions I recommend:
Cover your mouth and nose when running or walking. Extremely cold, dry air irritates your airways and lungs (as your airways constrict in freezing temperatures). Covering your nose and mouth warms up the air before it enters your lungs, making you more comfortable—and you will feel less winded too.
Cover your head, ears, feet, and hands as your “extremities” feel the cold air first and are most likely to become frostbitten. Try glove liners and two pairs of socks when you head out for a hike. You will thank me later. Dress in sweat resistant layers, which you can peel off as you warm up. A long sleeve cotton shirt and a heavy jacket is not the way to go! The cotton fabric will become wet when you sweat, and stick to your skin which is misery.
Be on the lookout for wet leaves, melting snow and ice patches. Maybe try a fast walk instead of a run to prevent twisting your ankle or falling, and definitely switch to indoor cycling when there is ice on the road. If you are heading out to walk the dog after dinner (one of my favorite ways to avoid doing the dishes and help my digestion), always wear a reflective jacket. You can see the cars, but they cannot see you.
Finally, shorten your order workouts when the mercury dips. If you normally run or walk 5 miles, cut it down to 3 miles. Being outside for over an hour in freezing temperatures is hard on your body and can lead to overexertion.
So what should you be doing instead? If you are not a “gym person” (and I am NOT), research studios in your area for workouts that help build core strength and flexibility, such as Barre, Pilates and Yoga classes. If you normally only exercise outside, winter is the perfect time to explore taking “non cardio” classes to mix up your workouts. Plus strength training is so important for our bone health as we age.
Swimming is also the best “full body” cardio workout with zero impact on your joints. Indoor pools have come a long way from when we were kids, and you will no longer smell like Clorox for 2 days after swimming for an hour. If you are new to swimming, you can start with 10 or 20 laps and then use the kickboard, tread water and even jog underwater to increase your workout time. The natural resistance from the water make pool workouts quite challenging without the pounding of running.
Buying a Peloton is an investment but my friends who have purchased one tell me they are well worth it, and their entire family uses their bike. Cycling is a fabulous workout and with the motivation of a spin class in your home. Even a quick 20 minute ride in the morning will push you to exhaustion, with none of the risks of outdoor cycling to worry about.
Finally, don’t forget about your laptop. There are so many incredible workouts available to download–many are free–so you can get a great workout at home and often for no charge! Try a 15 minute HIIT workout or a 30 minute Vinyasa Yoga flow session. The possibilities are truly endless. It is so important to get fresh air, oxygen to the brain, Vitamin D, and some time in nature every day when possible, but these indoor workouts will keep you in shape until Spring arrives. It will be here soon enough.