Don’t let plunging temps slow down your fitness game.
With the right gear and some extra safety precautions, winter workouts can be a healthy alternative to hunkering down in your apartment.
“[Working out] in the elements makes you stronger physically and mentally,” says Elizabeth Corkum, a running coach and instructor at indoor fitness studio Mile High Run Club, which has two Manhattan locations.
She and other fitness experts say exercises such as running, walking, playing sports or doing outdoor bootcamps can actually be an enjoyable way to get some sunlight and fresh air. Plus, studies — including a 2016 report in the journal Temperature — have shown that people have improved endurance when it’s cold out because the body’s threshold for exhaustion is higher.
Still, special precautions need to be taken to prevent injury. Before you head outside, it’s important to properly warm up your muscles and ligaments. Start by doing three to five minutes of exercises such as butt-kicks, lunges, high knees (while running in place) and jumping jacks.
“When it’s really cold out, there’s more of a chance for someone to tweak something if they’re not warmed up,” Corkum says.
She advises running indoors when temperatures hit the single digits or teens, or when visibility is low.
It’s also easy to forget to drink water before and after an outdoor workout, especially during long runs or walks. “In summer or spring, you’re thirsty because it’s hot and you’re sweating, but in winter, you have to be mindful to drink water, even if you don’t feel as thirsty,” she says.
And having the right clothing is key: If you’re doing cardio, “dress for the temperature it is plus 20 degrees,” since you’ll warm up after about 10 minutes of exercise. In other words, if you’re running in 20-degree temperatures, dress as though it’s 40 degrees.
“But keep in mind the wind chill and what the ‘real feel’ temperature is,” Corkum says, adding that if it’s especially cold or windy, she doubles up on leggings for a little extra protection.
Always go for sweat-wicking materials so you don’t end up damp and shivering by the end of your workout. This means ditching your trusty cotton crew neck for a sweat-wicking, long-sleeve shirt with a warm vest or jacket over it. And, while you’ll want to keep extremities such as hands and ears covered — a hat might not be your best bet.
“Having your head covered can help you hold onto heat, but some people feel they overheat when they have everything covered,” Corkum says. “A band that covers your ears is the sweet spot because it keeps your head open and free.”
As for your feet, socks ought to have some wool in them — wool is both warm and naturally sweat-wicking — but skip the thick, bulky pairs to avoid blisters. If it’s icy or snowy, consider some extra traction: Corkum recommends using Yaktrax traction devices ($19.99 at DicksSportingGoods.com), which can slip over running shoes.
Here’s a guide to some of the season’s best winter exercise gear.
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