Warm-ups are a must
A proper warm-up is the precursor to any quality workout but it is more important than ever when you workout outdoors in cool or cold conditions. "Always start with a warm up! Don't skip it because you are cold and want to jump into your workout," says Erin Houg, owner of FIT4MOM Eastside in Redmond, Washington. Sprains, strains, and tears are much more likely in a body that hasn't warmed up, so before you jump into your workout, spend a few minutes to loosen up. Houg recommends utilizing large muscle groups first because it will warm up your body faster and is a good practice for avoiding an injury, whether you're working out indoors or out. Get toasty fast with these tricks to making your body feel warmer.
Take time to reflect
The winter not only brings the cold, it also brings shorter days and more morning and evening darkness. "If you're working out closer to dusk or dawn, reflective gear is a must," says Nichole Malkiel, holistic health coach and group fitness Instructor at Shape Your Being LLC based in Fairfield, Connecticut. You should also be extra aware of your surroundings and watching for cars and traffic while exercising outdoors, she suggests.
Layers are your friend
"I rely heavily on layers, which are easy to shed if you get too warm," says Malkiel. But you always want to cover your head, ears, fingers, and toes as they tend to get cold quickly, she adds. Learn how to layer the smart way.
Watch the wind chill factor
"It's important to take into consideration not only air temperatures but also wind chill factor," says Malkiel. Although frostbite isn't likely to occur in temperatures above 5 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Mayo Clinic, the risk increases greatly with higher winds or rain. "If the temperature is hovering around freezing and the wind is over five miles per hour, I bring my classes in," she says. Find out the other surprising ways your body deals with freezing temps.
Slather on the sunscreen
Yes, even in the winter. Skin is exposed to sun and UV rays during all daylight hours, even when it's cloudy and cold. If you've ever seen a friend post-ski vacation with an awkward sunburn, you know that sun damage doesn't only happen in the summer. Snow is highly reflective, so slather on a sweat-proof sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection, anytime you head outdoors to exercise. Find out other sunscreen mistakes to avoid.
Watch out for falls
Malkiel says that when the ground is icy or snowy, the risks of working out outdoors become greater than the benefits. "Although we enjoy being outside as much as possible, it's far too easy to get injured on snow or ice," she says. Since slips and falls are way more common in colder months and especially in poor footwear, make sure to wear quality shoes with good traction for any outdoor workouts, regardless of weather conditions.
"Check with your doctor if you have preexisting conditions such as asthma," says Malkiel since, according to the AAAAI (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology), both exercise and cold, dry weather can exacerbate or trigger asthma symptoms. That's because the nose usually warms and moistens air for the lungs but, during intense exercise, mouth breathing is more common. As a result cold and dry air has more direct access to the lungs. (These are clear signs you have exercise-induced asthma.)
Shake off the rain
Unless temperatures are too low, working out in the rain is completely doable, with water-resistant gear. "There is something about the fresh air and being in Washington state where we get a lot of rain—it is the nature of our area," says Houg. "We learn to deal with it rather than avoid it. One of our mottos at FIT4MOM is 'We train in the rain and we mean it!'" (Though class is canceled during a thunderstorm.)