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Remember this old Dean Martin song?

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!”

Curling up next to a cozy fire when it’s nippy or even frozen outside sounds inviting, doesn’t it? But what if you have been keeping to your running or walking exercise regime and you don’t want to break the cycle? I’ve got news for you. You can “carry on” even if it’s snowing outside. And get this: the experts tell us that it can actually be good for you.

I’m no fan of cold weather. The coldest it’s ever been when I’ve gone for a run was 27 degrees. I only did it once, but by golly, I did it. Duh! It was really weird. It seemed like no matter how fast I wanted to move, I was stuck in slo-mo. I had no form. I had no speed. I worried more about slipping on a patch of ice than how cold it was. It was pretty pitiful.

My favorite temperature for outside exercise is 65 degrees. The elite runners from up north would call me a wuss, a winter wimp, but I don’t care. When it gets that cold, for me, it’s time to go to the gym and pound it out on a treadmill.

But if the notion of vacationing in Siberia appeals to you, here are a few things to remember when you prefer or have to exercise in the wild, woolly, gelid outdoors.

Warm Up: Take Your Time

I suggest you warm up even before you suit up. Do it in a semi-warm area. Cold muscles are at a greater risk for injury. Concentrate on movements that can not only stretch your body parts but also loosen your joints and get your blood flowing. Don’t skimp on this. Exercising in cold weather without warming up is like showing up at a gun fight with a knife.

Arm circles and swings,  high steps (bringing your knees up to your chest if you can), and lunges are great cold-weather warm-ups. Spend twice as much time on your warm-up as you would ordinarily do.

Bundle Up: Dress the Part

It’s a good idea to dress in layers so that you can easily take off a layer and put it back on if needed. I like to wear a zip-up hoodie that I can remove and wrap around my waist. Wear a hat or muffs that cover your ears. Wear gloves with a fleecy lining and wool socks. When it’s cold, your blood flow concentrates in your core to keep you warm. This leaves your extremities more vulnerable to the cold. If you leave your head, feet, or hands unprotected, you are asking for trouble.

Likewise, don’t forget your sunglasses, sunscreen, and lip balm with SPF. You can still get sunburned in the winter; in fact, sunlight reflecting off of snow can increase the harmful UVA and UVB rays.

Drink Up: Stay Hydrated

Believe it or not, you are more likely to get dehydrated in cold weather because, when it is chilly, your thirst is tamped down. Granted, you may not need as much fluid as you do when you are sweating buckets on a hot weather run, but you still need to drink water before, during, and after your exercise period. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if you are not sweating, you don’t need to hydrate. You do!

Wise Up: Choose Safe Routes and Surfaces

When it’s cold and icy outside, it’s not time to prove how tough you are. It’s not the time to go for your personal best. An icy, slippery surface should bother you and slow you down. Respect it. Wear shoes with good traction, and nobody is going to think you are a wimp if you use hiking poles.

Thaw Out: Melt Down Gradually

Once your workout is over, remember to take your time as you acclimate to indoor warmer temps. I always want to rush into a hot bathtub or shower, but if you’ve ever done this and had an excruciating toe burn, you won’t do it again. Let your body adjust before you shock it with heat.

You will be sweaty after you come indoors, and your clothes, at least the layer closest to your body, will be wet. Sometimes it seems like I get chilled more indoors in damp, sweaty clothes, so take your time with the outer layers before you do your final strip tease. After it’s all over, I like to reward myself with a hot cup of chai tea.

Pony Up: You’ve Got This

On those days that I am so hot that I resemble a Dali melting clock, I concentrate hard and place the sweltering feel of the moment into my memory vault for when I’m so cold that my teeth and boobs ache. I syphon those “hot” memories on the frosty days and it helps…some.

As you move in the cold, you may feel like a snail, or even better, Ralphie’s little brother in Christmas Story. “I can’t put my arms down!!!”

But, you know what? One thing is evident. Whether you enjoy exercising in the cold or not, if you do it regularly, it proves that you are dedicated to the sport and to improving yourself, and that is a very, very good thing. You’ve got this, Snow Bunny!

“On a positive note: I haven’t seen any mosquitoes in weeks.” ~ Capt’n Clean

“It’s so cold, my hot flashes are starting to feel pretty good.” ~Wimpy Girl


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This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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