Getting fit in the cold – Doing it safely, and a few benefits

Well once again snow has washed across the United Kingdom – is it just me or do we seem better at coping with it now? – and with a lot of the day now conducted at sub-zero temperatures, motivation to get out and about plummets, people sticking it out in front of the TV, waiting  for the warmer (ha!) weather.

Yet the freezing temperatures can actually present a perfect opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the crisp air and lovely clear mornings that often accompany our chilly weather-fronts. Provided you take care, there are actually many benefits to getting out when the snow and slush is  about – so it’s not an excuse to hang up the boots on your New Year’s Resolution just yet!*

That said, it’s always smart to keep it safe out there. 5 little tips to get you out of Winter in as many pieces as your entered it:

1. Know your surface – whilst soft-snow can be great fun to charge through, it quickly gets trampled down; after which you’re effectively trying to grip on ice. Hilarious for bystanders, not for you.

2. Depending on how far afield you’re planning to track; it’s wise to keep your phone about, should anything go awry. If you’re heading right out into the sticks, try an app such as SportsTrackLive – this gizmo will not only fully track your performance (from hiking to skydiving, it’s got you covered); but it can feed the data back in real-time to any web-enabled device – meaning someone at home knows exactly where you are, should you find yourself in difficulty. Turn it off before visiting the pub…

3. Like any Winter sporting pursuits – having the right clothing (and layering) is essential to both your enjoyment and longevity in the elements. There are 3 layers that need to be considered come cold weather:

 i. Technical Thermal Layer – Don’t just throw a t-shirt on underneath a windbreaker – cotton absorbs moisture rather than wicking it away; so as you get sweaty, the cotton soaks up and cools, essentially wrapping your body in a cold, wet shell. Ever tried putting a cold wetsuit on? It’s much the same feeling, and it won’t be comfortable should you stop moving. Look into a proper technical base-layer, such as the Long-Sleeve Crew from Marmot.

ii. Fleece Layer – One for when it’s really chilly – a thin, dynamic fleece layer helps with keeping a warm layer of air between you and the outside world. Merino is best, but soft-shell man-made micro-fleeces (such as 2117’s Stenkallegarden Fleece – available for men and women) can also do a respectable job.

iii.  Outer Layer – Depending on conditions, either a windbreaker or waterproof jacket. It needs to be thin enough to allow your full-range of motion, but sufficiently protected to foil the elements’ best-laid plans to chill your core. Marmot’s range of performance jackets cover all the bases, from the Driclime Windshirt for keeping the wind out, to the Fusion Jacket – half-jacket, half-running-top.

4. Ensure your footwear is fit for purpose. If you’re running, good outdoor trainers are fine, but they will get wet and then cool down to the ambient temperature; so don’t stop moving until you’re back in the warmth of home (or the car’s blow-heater!)…if you’re heading out at a slower pace, or for a hike; standard trainers are a no-go – you’ll be wanting the dry, warm comfort of Gore-tex. If you can find some outdoor trekking trainers (Merrell have a particularly good line), then perfect; otherwise it’s boots, or – for the non-runners – a nice pair of wellies!
5. Finally, be sure to keep your face and hands moisturized either pre or post-exercise; the cool air dries out skin and can leave it cracked and painful for days after.

 

If you can get the preparation right – and commit to the cold – then enjoy the benefits that your peers are missing out on:

+ Walking in the snow/mud/slush stabilizes muscles in the ankles and lower leg, which often aren’t used in normal walking/running. So getting out in the snow actually strengthens your legs and protects you from injuries such as rolled ankles (or worse); just be careful not to go and do just that whilst the snow blankets pesky curbs and tree roots!

+ Much like going for a walk along the beach, snow increases the resistance to forward motion; meaning slower, but harder, progress. Therefore your 10km walk/run/hike will feel more like 15km, so factor this in to any route planning to avoid over-exertion; but revel in the fact you’ve burned more calories in the process!

+ Above all else, you can be immensely satisfied for sticking to your guns and keeping up the exercise! Many of us vow to fitness drives in the New Year, and quickly find the motivation stifled by returning to work, freezing days and long nights. Once you get out into the elements and start exercising, your body will warm itself up, and suddenly you’ll be able to enjoy the cooling air (made all the fresher by its temperature); and as with anything, once you get the routine going, it will become that much easier. And if you can get yourself through the ice and snow this Winter, just think how amazing those sessions in the Spring are going to feel!

 

*Unless of course, those particular boots are not waterproof. Then it might be wise to hang them up and buy some shiny new ones…

 

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