Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cold weather and exercising: no problem

According to the weather service, a cold mass of artic air is coming our way, and it will stay here for a while. This means we are going to have temperatures in the low 20's to mid 30's for the next 3 days.

This also means that there is a good excuse for not stepping out the door for a run or a walk. Well, after reading this, you won't be able to use this excuse anymore :-)

The problem is that we are afraid of the cold. A friend once asked me if it was safe for my lungs to run outside in freezing conditions. By the time the air reaches our lungs it is warm. There are lots of myths when it comes to exercising in cold weather.

Another myth is that you are more likely to get injured when it is cold, and that you should move slower. While it is true that you may slip if the road is icy, the cold itself is not going to cause injuries.

There are things that can go wrong in cold weather (frostbite, hypothermia); however, a few simple tricks will make it as safe as running in warm weather. The key is to keep our head, ears, and hands warm, and to not overdress the rest of our body.

- Body heat escapes at greater proportions from our head. Wear a hat.

- If the temperature is below freezing, we need to protect our ears from frostbite. Make sure your hat covers your ears, or wear a headband over your ears.

- Once your hands get cold, it is hard to feel warm again. Wear mittens or gloves.

- Most people overdress, and as a result overheat and sweat too much. If you are running, dress as if it was 20 degrees warmer. If you are walking at a quick pace, dress as if is was 15 degrees warmer. Expect to be uncomfortably cool the first few minutes of your run or walk.

- If you cannot stand being cold the first few minutes, warm up indoors first (jump in place, do push ups, etc), and then go out. The cold will be more bearable.

- Trick your mind: tell yourself that you are only going to run or walk for 15 minutes. If it is too cold and unbearable, come back in. After 15 minutes, you will be warm and enjoying yourself.

- Jump in place at stop lights. As soon as you stop moving, your temperature drops.

- If it is raining, try to keep dry as much as you can. Cold and wet is not a good combination. Wear a light rain jacket, water proof gloves, and a hat that keeps your head dry. Get some tights that have a top layer that repels water.

- To prevent dry skin, put some Vaseline on your face before going out.

- Get into dry clothes as soon as you are done. Even better, have a warm shower, and have some hot chocolate.

There you go. No more excuses. Running in 30 degree weather is safe. Just watch out for icy conditions, and you will be fine!

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