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Why You Should Embrace the Cold if You Exercise Outdoors

exercise_outdoors 345x195.jpgExercising outdoors, whether running or hitting a garage gym or engaging in countless other activities in between, can be a liberating experience. No commute to a fitness center, no lines for equipment, and no distractions. But it can also be a challenge between the first frost and first lasting thaw.

Respecting the cold is the surest way to prevent a strain or worse, says David Webner, M.D., director of Running Medicine for the Crozer-Keystone Health System. That means a few different things. For starters, dress appropriately, he advised.

“Everyone will have their own version of what works for them,” Dr. Webner said. “My fingers are prone to getting really cold during runs, so I use these thick, oversize gloves that look ridiculous, but they do the trick.”

In extreme cold, dress in layers and cover your feet and hands—extremities are the most susceptible to frostbite—as well as your head. An uncovered head exposes the ears and releases a lot of the body’s heat. Beyond those basic guidelines, experiment with different articles of clothing until you find a combination that allows you to move comfortably and keeps you warm.

Taking additional time to warm up and cool down is also important. Dr. Webner sees more muscle strains during the winter, many a result of warmups cut short to save time. Taking a few extra minutes to stretch before and after the winter workout can help prevent a strain that could derail a workout regimen for months.

Finally, drink more than you think you should. “We have a tendency to not think about hydration as much during the winter because we don’t perceive that we’re sweating as much as we normally do,” Dr. Webner said. “But we still sweat, and dehydration is still a threat.”