Chilly days, particularly icy-cold and rainy mornings, can be a big deterrent when it comes to training and exercise. After all, hibernating under the covers or staying warm over a coffee is much more enticing. However, with the right gear, and good old-fashioned grit and knowhow, you can brave the cold and benefit from cold-weather work-outs. Here’s how.
Have a back-up plan
You’ll get nowhere if you look outside, see rainclouds and decide to pop your head back under the doona. If rain is likely to spoil your outdoor training, then take your work-out indoors at the gym, sports centre or even at home. Have a weights or cardio plan at the ready and go for it. You could even stay warm while exercising by doing laps at your local heated pool or by joining a hot yoga class.
Dress the part
Singlets and shorts might be easy to throw on and allow a full range of movement, but they’ll do you a disservice if the mercury is sitting in the single digits, particularly if it’s windy. Adopt the onion philosophy and don layers so that you can discard them as you become warmer. For training on cold days in Sydney, try wearing a short- or long-sleeved tee plus long skins and a zip jacket and beanie – even gloves if your hands tend to become stiff and sore in the cold. Remember, your extremities lose a large amount of heat, so don’t get caught out.
Once your training is complete, forget lingering in the chill, head straight for the indoors again and remove any sweaty or wet clothing so that your immune system isn’t compromised.
As for footwear, dress for the conditions. If it’s wet and slippery outside, wear shoes with a good grip – you don’t want to slip over and obtain an injury.
A cold body does take longer to warm up, so save the static stretches for later. Before you go about training on cold days you need to increase your core body temperature and muscle blood flow in preparation for your work-out. If you don’t you could risk injury to your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. A good warm-up takes your major joints through their optimal range of motion, while activating muscles and movements specific to your chosen sport.
Monitor your health
Have your medication handy if you suffer from the likes of asthma or other breathing difficulties. Inhaling cold air can cause the bronchial tubes to narrow, which can lead to throat irritation and inflammation, particularly if you’re huffing and puffing from exercise. Inhaling through your nose and exhaling through the mouth can help a little. But if the temp is below 15 degrees Celsius, then it might be better to head indoors for your work-out.
Also, to be safe remember to consult your doctor before beginning any exercise in cold weather, or if you have known heart issues. The cold forces your heart to pump harder so that blood can circulate through your body but, if you have the GP go-ahead, this can be a great thing, as strengthening the heart via cold-weather training is known to increase your stamina and strength long past the end of winter.
If you have a cold or are getting over one, your immune system is particularly vulnerable during, and for about 30 minutes after, an intense work-out as it tries to fight pathogens while dealing with the impact of the training on the body. If you have a slight cold or runny nose, stick to light exercise only, and if you have a more serious bacterial or viral infection, then avoid exercise altogether until your symptoms disappear. See your doctor if you are unsure of when to return to your regular training program.
It’s all well and good to go hell for leather to make the most of your training time, but don’t simply stop at the end of it all and head indoors to sit or lie down exhausted. During cold weather your muscles cool down very quickly, which means any by-products from muscle contraction cannot be flushed out of the bloodstream easily. Therefore, you need to spend a bit of time on a cool-down (even if it’s just a walk or good stretch), so that your blood circulation doesn’t drop too fast and your muscles don’t stiffen or painfully spasm. The cool-down is just as important as the warm-up in winter.
The good news is that lacing up and hitting the pavement, or getting in a good gym work-out, can naturally boost your physical and emotional health. And if the sun is shining you are also getting a much-needed dose of vitamin D, which is important for your bones and joints and also for lifting the spirits. Studies in the UK have even found that by training on cold days you are 20-30 percent less likely to succumb to the flu. So if these aren’t all great reasons to put more pep in your step, we don’t know what will!
Do you have any tips for training on cold days to share? Let us in on them in the comments section below.