Hannah’s 8 tips to enjoy the outdoors this winter.

by Hannah Alderfer, BA, CPT, FMSC and crazy runner!

winter_runner_mediumthumbIf you’ve been able to take advantage of the warmer temperatures we’ve been enjoying this December, don’t let the coming winter months ruin your plans to stay active outside! If you’re like me, you need a healthy dose of outdoor activity (you’ll only find me on the treadmill under dire circumstances!), and though below freezing temperatures makes it a little more challenging, it’s not impossible! Follow these tips to stay safe, warm and healthy throughout your winter activities.

  1. Invest in quality clothing that is appropriate for your level of activity. Remember that the more intense your activity (running vs. walking vs. skiing vs. hiking, etcetera) the more you’ll sweat. You’ll want to have material that will wick sweat away so that you do not end up becoming too chilled in the middle of your activity.
  2. Dress in layers. It’s always easier to take layers off as you go than to leave with too little and put yourself in a miserable and often dangerous situation. When I run, gloves often get stashed in pockets after a few miles, a light jacket may get tide around the waist, and sleeves often get rolled up.
  3. Warm up inside before heading out. With the colder temperatures you’ll want your muscles to be primed so that they don’t tighten up in the cold – and risk getting injured. Go through some basic dynamic warm up drills. Try doing just 2-3 minutes (just enough to be warm but not sweaty) of light high knees, butt kickers, side lunges, squats, calf raises, and upper body movements or anything else that gets you moving your major muscle groups.
  4. Try hand warmers! And feet warmers and toe warmers and body warmers. These things saved me last year when the average temperature in February was 14 degrees. They last for hours and keep those extremities from becoming numb from the cold.
  5. Be visible to others. If you find that one of the most difficult parts about winter is the lack of light, I agree! Now I wouldn’t recommend for safety reasons to be out in the dark, especially on the road, so if you can avoid it, do so! If you do head out early or after dusk, find a partner and quiet roads with side walks or trails. I’ve learned to combat the dark by wearing reflective clothing, a flashing clip-on light (from New Balance), a light up vest (from Saucony… yes a light-up vest with its very own rechargeable battery), and a very fashionable headlamp (it seriously lights up the whole road in front of me and stays in place on my head).
  6. Wind can make a mild day bitter cold, so remember to have something to cover all exposed skin areas. You can also use products such as Vaseline or Body Glide to protect your cheeks and nose from frostbite. If that’s not appealing to you grab a scarf or, better yet, a balaclava for face protection.
  7. Find a friend to endure the cold with you. The cold isn’t so bad when you’ve got a friend to talk to and help make the time pass more quickly. You’ll also keep each other accountable to keep moving, even when it’s mentally tough to get outside.
  8. Lastly, change out of your wet clothes and go somewhere warm quickly after you’re finished. It’s also not a bad idea to grab a warm drink to get your core temperature back up post-workout.