When it’s cold out, running and biking are less pleasant and more dangerous. One solution is to get your cardio on stationary machines all winter long. Another is to quit cardio altogether until the weather warms up. But nothing beats the burn of some good, old-fashioned roadwork. Here are seven tips to help you get on the road even when the weather outside is frightful.
1. Do Some Research
Check the weather report online the night before you exercise, and an hour or so before you go out, so you can dress appropriately for what’s outside. Most smart phones come with a weather app that gives updated weather conditions for your area. If you don’t have an app phone, www.weather.com is an easy-to-remember Internet resource with the same information. It’s also a good idea to research routes and tracks, so you can work the safest one possible given the conditions.
2. Dress in Layers
You’ll feel colder at the beginning of your run than in the middle or at the end. Wear multiple layers so you can adjust your insulation over the course of your session. Gloves and a hat are absolute musts when cycling in the cold, and a good idea for runners. For your lowest layer, use fibers that wick moisture away from your skin, such as Coolmax or Drymax. Compression garments make good under layers, but not all are made of breathable fabrics, so are less suitable for cold-weather exercise.
3. Run Laps
Hypothermia is a real risk when exercising in the cold, especially after you sweat and take off those first few layers. If you’re doing an “out-and-back” route, you risk getting chilled a long way from the warmth of your home. Running a shorter track multiple times brings you back to “base camp” more often.
4. See to Traction
Whether it’s rain, snow, or ice, traction becomes a problem in winter months. If you’re cycling, swap your street slicks for traction tires. If running, wear shoes with excellent traction, or consider shoe traction devices, which are essentially snow chains for your feet. Choose routes with fewer hills on snowy or icy days. Be especially cautious of black ice, which can be practically invisible and just as slick as any other nasty patch of road.
5. Emphasize Visibility
You won’t be the only person on the road with traction problems. Cars will similarly need extra time to stop or turn, meaning you need to let them know you’re there earlier than during the summer months. Wear brighter colors, and consider a headlamp and reflector vest even during daylight hours. Choose routes with a sidewalk or bike lane, rather than just a shoulder.
6. Eat First
Your body stays warm by burning calories, meaning extra calories are important in avoiding hypothermia. A light, calorie-dense, snack just before going out can make the whole experience more pleasant and in some cases safer. A banana, energy bar or cup of soup are all great options.
7. Keep Going
Perhaps the most important tip for outdoor cardio in wintertime is to keep doing it. When things get cold and drizzly, it’s easy to give in to temptation and stay inside with the TV instead. Ignore that temptation and get out there. Having a workout buddy, or committing to your workout on social media, can help you find motivation when the winter cold tries to suck it away.
Readers, do you have any success stories or tales of terror from getting out in the winter wet? Tell us about them in the comments.