Running and walking are excellent ways to stay fit year-round – even during cold winter months. However, it is important to make some changes to your exercise routine to ensure your well-being and safety during the colder seasons. Kathrine Switzer offers the following tips to help you maintain your fitness level and achieve maximum enjoyment of your winter workout.
- Wear less, but layer your clothing: During cold weather, you'll need less heavy clothing as long as you are moving briskly. Wear several light layers, and wear a jacket or windbreaker to keep you warm during the early part of your run or walk, then take it off and tie it around your waist after you are warmed up. Runners will need much less clothing than walkers, and both would be advised in very cold weather to have an outer jacket that covers the hips.
- Proper winter clothing is a good investment: Invest in a few key garments, particularly the layer that is closest to your body and the garment that is your outer shell. Be sure your first layer is made of one of the synthetic fabrics that wick away perspiration and let it evaporate. Your outer shell should be made of a breathable, wind-repellent fabric, such as Gore-Tex? to let the heat escape, but not let cold winter air enter. Choose garments that have closures over front zippers to keep air and cold rain from leaking through openings and zippers.
- Don't forget your hat and gloves: Always wear a hat and gloves. A great deal of vital body heat is lost through the top of your head, like a chimney, and through your hands. Runners can get by with simple cotton gloves (or even socks!) but walkers will need heavier gloves, even woolen mittens with a wind-proof shell.
- Warm yourself with proper stretching: Always warm up and begin your workout slowly before you begin your run or walk in the cold, and have a good stretch after you are done. This is more important in the cold than the heat, because hot weather helps you warm up naturally.
- Enjoy the snow, beware of ice: Running and Walking in snow is fun and exhilarating, but ice is treacherous. Black ice forms early in the morning and at dusk, and is almost impossible to see. When there is dangerous ice consider a treadmill, mall walking, or at-home aerobics.
- Beware of windchill: The actual air temperature is often not the problem in cold-weather running and walking – the windchill factor matters more. Start your workout into the wind and finish with it behind you. If you run into the wind when you are sweaty, you can get dangerously chilled.
- Stay safe in the dark: For safety, consider running with a partner and always wear bright, reflective gear.
- Get out of damp clothes as soon as possible: When you stop moving, get out of your workout gear quickly, even if you cannot shower immediately. Have plenty of dry clothes on hand.
- Protect your natural outer layer – your skin: Winter weather threatens the skin with cold, wind, and lower humidity indoors and out. Protect your skin – especially face and lips – with an easy regimen of moisturizer, sun protection, and a gentle cleanser. Apply moisturizer and lip balm before venturing outdoors, and for daytime runs choose products with SPF. Once you are back home, wash your face with a gentle cleanser and apply moisturizer to offset winter's chapping and the drying effects of indoor heating. Lotion your body lavishly after showering.
Kathrine Switzer is the author of Running and Walking for Women Over 40 (St. Martin's Press), an Emmy-award winning TV commentator and a former winner of the New York City Marathon This is part of a series of her proven tips to encourage women to Take Fitness to Heart.