Don’t give up your outdoor workout routine due to the cold winter weather. Instead, says Shoreline physical therapist Bruk Ballenger, just go into each cold-weather workout prepared while following certain common-sense precautions.
“Preparation and knowledge are keys to safely exercising in any extreme environment, whether it’s during the height of summer or the dead of winter,” said Ballenger, owner of Prevail Physical Therapy in Shoreline. “During this time of year, it’s important to keep in mind the four pillars of cold-weather exercise, each of which is equally important to consider: clothing, balance, hydration and common sense.”
Ballenger said when planning for cold-weather running, cycling, hiking, skiing, etc., clothing considerations should take into account layering, head protection and covering the extremities.
“One of the biggest mistakes one can make is dressing too warm,” he said. “If you over-dress, you’ll feel warm at first, but once you start to sweat, cold will set in. That’s why we wear layers – so we can shed outer layers as we start warming and before we get too drenched in sweat.”
The inner-most layer should be made of synthetic microfibers that dry quickly and wick sweat away from the body. Since circulation to your extremities will be hindered as blood flow concentrates in the core of your body, cover your hands and feet in layers, too. Top off with a hat to prevent the escape of up to 50 percent of your body’s heat.
During the winter season, Ballenger points out the risk of falls – and the potential for fall-related injuries – increases considerably. His advice: be prepared with proper footwear. Outfit yourself a pair of Yaxtrax – the metal coils many runners and walkers strap onto their shoes to prevent slipping.
This is a no-brainer when working out, yet it’s something that can be overlooked – perhaps not even noticed, in some cases – during in colder weather. According to Ballenger, drink water before, during and after your workout, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
If it’s just unbearably cold or we’re experiencing high winds and a snow storm, keep your workout inside. “It’s just not worth the risk, nor is it worth the risk if you suffer from asthma, heart problems, etc,” Ballenger added. “If you have a medical condition you feel may be exacerbated by putting stress on the body, check with your doctor before exercising in cold weather.”
And if aches, pains or injury are keeping you from a regular exercise regimen, visit a physical therapist like those on the Prevail Physical Therapy team for a full assessment. Physical therapists are specifically certified medical professionals whose goals are to help reduce pain and improve or restore mobility.