Tips for Maintaining Outdoor Fitness in Cold Weather

If you like exercising outdoors don’t let the winter season get in the way of your routine. With some planning you can still enjoy being out in the fresh air, even when it’s windy and cold. Here are some tips for adapting to the elements:

Dress in layers and cover exposed skin
Dressing in layers allows you adjust to your increasing body temperature as you exercise. Cotton fabric should be avoided for the first layer, as it offers poor insulation and wicking ability. Thin synthetic material such as polypropylene, which can wick sweat away from your body, is a better choice. Ideally the outermost layer would be made of nylon or Gore-Tex®; these breathable but protective materials will help keep you warm and dry while still letting out heat and moisture.

Wear gloves, a winter hat, scarf, and insulating socks to prevent heat loss. Many people find it uncomfortable to breath in cold air-if this is the case for you, try creating a barrier by covering your mouth with a very thin layer of fabric from your scarf or neck warmer.

Take long, deep breaths
Breathing in cold, dry air can lead to a dehydrated and irritated throat, and taking shallow, quick breaths often exacerbates the problem. Focus on taking long deep breaths instead. Breathing in through your nose can also help to humidify the air before it reaches your lungs.

Incorporate some winter sports
Take advantage of the activities of the season. Ice skating, skiing, snow-shoeing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing can all provide cardiovascular benefits. Incorporating these exercises into your program is a great opportunity to cross train, strengthen and stabilize muscles that you may not normally target, and invite others along for fun!

Remember that you still need to stay hydrated
It’s easy to remember to drink water when it’s hot outside, but people often forget about staying hydrated during the winter months. No matter what the temperature, you’re still creating body heat and sweating, and it’s important to replace those fluids.

Julie Khan is an advanced clinician at the HSS Sports Rehabilitation Center. She graduated from Columbia University with a masters and doctorate in physical therapy. Her clinical interests include post-surgical sports-related injuries and running mechanics. She is a Sports Certified Specialist through the APTA, USATF Level 1 Coach, and a Road Runners Club of America certified coach. She has completed more than 20 half-marathons and seven marathons.

Tracey Llewellyn is a doctor of physical therapy at HSS Sports Rehab at Chelsea Piers Connecticut. She received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Hunter College and Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science from Manhattan College. Tracey is certified in the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) and is a Graston Technique provider. She is a former Division 1 soccer player and is especially passionate about sports medicine, injury prevention, return to play, and running analysis. 

Leigh-Ann Plack, PT, DPT, is an advanced clinician at HSS Onsite. She specializes in running and endurance athletes. She is a certified USA Track and Field Level 1 coach and Ironman Certified Coach. She has run nine marathons and two Half-Ironman triathlons. She is currently working on her EdD in Applied Exercise Physiology at Columbia University Teachers College.

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The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.