Can you still exercise outside?

20140928_120109During Spring and Summer months exercising outdoors seems like a no-brainer, but now that Fall is in full swing and the temperatures have dropped, you may be tempted to move your workout indoors or forgo it altogether. Just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean you can’t still get out there and have a great workout. Let’s explore the best ways to prep for the great outdoors during fall and winter months.

For starters you have to have the right gear whether it’s for hiking, jogging or cycling. To keep your legs warm be sure to wear pants that cover the entire leg otherwise at the end of your workout your muscles will cramp very quickly (which is what happened to me this morning while I was out for a jog in ¾ length pants). Fabric-wise choose something durable yet breathable and light; you may have to spring for an expensive pair in this case as the price really reflects the quality, so don’t skimp out! For your upper body it’s a good idea to wear several layers, I suggest a lightweight tank top under a hooded sweatshirt; you can use the hood if your head feels cold or if it starts to rain or snow while, you’re out. Depending on how cold it is you may want to wear a jacket or an outdoor vest looking thing to keep you warm, try to find one that isn’t too heavy like your typical winter coat. Your neck should also be covered so either choose a sweatshirt that covers the area or wear a scarf (an infinity scarf is ideal here as it won’t get tangled) and depending on the wind you may need to cover your face with your scarf also. Your head is also equally important so wear a hat that’s tight enough to stay on your head without moving around, but again breathable fabric and it has to cover your ears. Your hands also need to be covered so get yourself a sturdy pair of gloves or mittens that you only use for working out and not for everyday; there are some really great gloves made from material that is compatible with touch screens on smart phones. For your feet wear thick socks for working out and as for your shoes, well you should always workout in shoes specifically designed for your particular exercise and if there is the possibility of ice or show you will need add an attachment to your shoes, most likely with small spikes so you don’t slip. When buying your workout gear it’s important to go to an athletic apparel store and enlist the help of a salesperson as they have clothing specifically designed for working out whether indoors or out, yes it may be pricey but it’s worth it; you get quality apparel that will last and be comfortable and safe. Before you buy, you should try on everything (hats, gloves, pants, etc.) to be sure that it fits you well and that you’re not irritated by any of the fabrics in case you have sensitive skin.

Now that we’ve covered the fashion aspect of your workout, let’s talk safety. Before you start exercising have a pre-workout meal, even if all you have is 20 minutes before you start, have a glass of juice or a fruit and drink some water so that you are well hydrated. The next step is to do a full warm of dynamic stretching for 5 to 10 minutes prior (see my previous post “Stretching: Dynamic Or Static?” for warm up tips). There are a few additional precautions that you must take before getting started including carrying a fully charged cellphone with you just in case disaster strikes and you need to call for help, also if you have a roommate let them know that you’re heading out, for how long and your root so they will no to keep an eye out for you too.

So now that you’re ready to head out there are a few physical warnings signs to lookout for. While exercising if you feel any cramping whatsoever you need to stop immediately, don’t think that you can just push past the pain because you may injure yourself. Also if it’s really cold or windy and it feels like it takes your breath away or you start to cough, then you may want to either slow down your pace or stop and take rest to catch your breath before continuing. If you feel any kind of pain at any point or if you feel dizzy STOP! Listen to what your body is telling you as you go through your workout and don’t risk your health. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before exercising (especially outdoors) to verify that it is safe for you. A few points to make note of are to stay on main roads where plowed snow is a priority and there’s more people around just in case, and put on some lip balm so your lips don’t chap. When you are done and you are back in the warmth of your home, take a good 5 to 10 minutes for some static stretches to cool down your muscles, prevent injury and speed recovery.

Back in March of this year I went for a run at 6:30 am and it was going great; it was mild out, the sun was rising and the snow was nowhere in sight. Then I turned a corner, hit a patch of ice and suddenly my legs lifted out from under me and I landed elbow first followed by my face smacking the pavement. Needless to say it hurt like mother and I was unprepared and did not have my phone with me and there was no one in sight. Thankfully I did not injure my lower body so I was able to get up and walk home just fine, but I did spend the next few weeks with my arm in a sling and a very bruised face. But I got lucky, it could have been way worse and surprisingly I didn’t break my glasses or lose a tooth (my mouth hit the pavement first, ouch!). Don’t be stupid like I was; plan ahead, get the right gear and stay on main roads. Now that being said, you’d think I’d have learned my lesson the first time, but as I mentioned this morning I went for a run in pants that barely surpass my knees and when I got back home my legs were very cramped and I’m already feeling sore, so again don’t be a stupid-head like me and prepare yourself the right way. (Just FYI, I have finally learned my lesson and on my lunch break today I bought myself a pair of good quality jogging pants with fabric that’s designed for jogging outside in cooler temperatures…yay me!).

If the weather is really bad and it’s icy or there’s blowing snow or strong cold winds, don’t risk it, stay inside and workout in your home or at the gym instead, tomorrow is another day. You can still have a great workout outdoors even during colder months so long as you prepare and enlist the help of the right people to get you on the right track. So slap on the SPF, get your gear on and have a great workout!

Start It, Finish It


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