Winter Workouts, Part 1: Exercising Outdoors

This is Part 1 of a series of posts about exercising in winter – even though it’s tempting to go into hibernation mode, it’s important to keep fit through the cold months! 

Winter has officially come to Toronto, and outdoor enthusiasts will be wondering if it’s time to take their workout indoors. While we will always welcome you at one of our five locations around the GTA, we understand the lure of the great outdoors. After all, with the sunlight in such short supply this time of year, it’s tempting to get out there and score some Vitamin D while you still can. So, how can you exercise safely outdoors?

  • Wear sunscreen.We tend to think of sunscreen as something to wear in the summer months, but UVA and UVB rays still do damage (and increase your likelihood of skin cancer) in the winter months, too — as anybody who’s come home with a nasty sunburn after a trip down the ski hill knows. So: if you’re going out for a run or a walk, don’t forget to either apply sunscreen to your face, or use a moisturizer with broad-spectrum SPF.
  • Keep your head covered. As the folks at the Running Room point out, you lose a significant percentage of body heat through your head. So, wear a beanie or headband. But don’tcover your ears too much, especially at night. And at night (late afternoon, really), you should be wearing reflective gear.
  • Be aware of how the cold is changing your perceptions of effort, thirst, and tiredness.Because you’re cold, you might not notice how much energy you’ve burnt, and you might not feel as thirsty. You should still drink water regularly while on a run or other high-intensity exercise outside. And you will be sweating, so make sure to change clothes as soon as you get home to avoid the moisture from freezing within the fibres of your clothing as you cool down.
  • Ice is not your friend.Unless you’re going skating, that is. If you go for a winter walk or run outdoors, try to stay away from shady areas where ice may not have melted.
  • Plan your route. This piece in The Globe and Mail has it right:you need to know exactly where you’re going when you’re going outside in the winter. You don’t want to be lost in a sudden snow squall, or be somewhere without water or adequate layers. Keep close to your home base, and run or walk loops around it so you can go home if the temperature drops.
  • Stay out of the wind. Maybe this seems like a no-brainer, but it bears repeating. Running into the wind makes you colder and increases resistance. Make sure that you run into the wind at the beginning of your run, while you’re building heat, and run with the wind at your back on your way home, so that your sweaty clothes won’t freeze on you and you won’t have extra work to do during your cool-down phase.