If you’re a dedicated runner, then winter can make keeping up with a regular, healthy routine difficult! If you get your exercise outside at all, be it running, walking, using a free gym in the park or cycling, then when the days get shorter and colder, you’re faced with additional challenges that can make it difficult to meet the targets you set for yourself.
Today we’re taking a look at some of these challenges and finding ways to make sure you’re able to keep getting the physical and mental health benefits of exercise right through the winter.
Exercising in the Cold
One of the big challenges of winter – the major factor that can make it difficult to summon the motivation to get up and head out for a run – is the cold. As the temperature drops, the sofa seems more and more alluring.
The key to keeping warm when you’re exercising outdoors in winter is layers of breathable material. Layered clothing traps air between layers creating pockets of insulation, which slow down your heat loss. It’s also important to wear breathable fabrics – this keeps moisture wicked away from your skin, minimising the build up of perspiration and discomfort.
Exercising in the Dark
If you’re only free to work out after office hours, the majority of the winter sees you running or cycling after the sun has set. This can be difficult for lots of reasons – there’s the danger from cars whose drivers can’t see you clearly, and it’s neither uncommon nor unreasonable for women to feel at risk running alone in the dark.
At least one of these problems can be solved by making yourself more visible. Wear fluorescent work out clothes (or attach fluorescent strips to your ankles and wrists) and you’ll show up clearly in headlights and streetlights.
If you’re not feeling safe exercising in the long winter nights, there’s no accessory that will help. It may be worth joining a group or simply pairing up with a friend, so you’re running in company, but until the issue is solved more broadly, it might be time to consider a gym membership, or shifting your routine to lunchtime or before work.
While we think of it as a problem for hot weather in the summer, dehydration is still very much an issue you need to think about when you’re working out in the cold. You’re still driving your body to extremes of hard work, and if you’re not wearing breathable fabrics, then wrapping up against the cold can encourage even more perspiration. On top of that, as your core temperature drops, your sensitivity to thirst is also diminished, so you may not be aware of how dehydrated you’re getting!
Use products like ORS rehydration or isotonic sports drinks to top up your fluid levels, and those all important electrolytes and make sure you stay at peak performance, however cold it gets!