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Exercising in Cooler Temperatures- Basic Tips You Should Know

Posted Oct 02 2012 10:02pm

“Hikers” by Peter Griffin

 As you look outside, and watch the leaves slowly change from green to brilliant oranges, reds, or yellows, you might also start to notice a bit of nip in the air.  Autumn is fast approaching much of the northern hemisphere, if it hasn’t gotten to where you are already. 

Many people choose to slow down their exercise routine during the fall and winter months, and for those of us who prefer to exercise outside, this can be a very tempting thing to do.  However, cooler weather is one of the best times to continue your exercise routine, especially outdoors.  However, there are a few things to keep in mind, things that during warmer weather you may not need to think about.  Here are a few of the most important.

Dress in Layers

Dressing in layers is perhaps one of the most important things that you can do when you are exercising in cooler weather.  In essence, your layers should consist of three separate parts.  The first layer or the one closest to your skin should act to wick or pull moisture away from your skin.  The last thing you need is your sweat clinging to your body and cooling you down more than you need.  The second layer should be a layer that provides warmth and comfort, much like a familiar old quilt on a cold winter’s day.  Finally, you’ll need something to block the wind.  Without this third layer, you’ll find out very quickly how little warmth and protection the first two layers provide from the biting wind, especially outside.

In most cases, the first layer should be something synthetic, such as spandex.  There are materials that are specifically designed to pull moisture away, and today most of them are very comfortable.  It’s best to avoid cotton.  Cotton has a bad habit of absorbing a person’s sweat and keeping it next to your skin.  The best choice for the second layer is something insulating like wool.  However, if you’re like me and have an allergy to it- my skin breaks out in hives if I come in contact with it- something such as a polar fleece or down material may be a suitable alternative.  Finally, make sure you have the final layer that consists of a breathable shell or wind breaker. 

Remember that one of the purposes of the layers is so that you can remove layers as you exercise.  The body will produce a great deal of heat when you’re moving about, and one of the dangers that may be present is overheating.  So keep in mind that you might have to experiment with a few different combinations before you find one that works for you.

Protect Your Extremities

Besides dressing in layers another critical part of exercising outside during the cooler months of the year is to protect your extremities.  Body parts such as the ears, fingers, toes, and nose don’t always get the blood flow that they need to stay warm.   Therefore it’s up to you to help them out.  Make sure you wear gloves or mittens, a hat to protect your ears and head, and a face mask to cover your face and nose might not be a bad idea.  Again, try to avoid cotton if you can, and make sure that they are things that can easily be removed if you start to overheat.

Pace Yourself

It is important to remember to pace yourself.  Exercising in the autumn and winter months is often a lot more taxing than the same amount in the spring and summer months.  Not only are you burning calories doing the actual exercise, but your body is also burning calories to stay warm.  It’s best to plan accordingly, and listen to your body.  Don’t push yourself beyond what your body is telling you, and in most cases decreasing your exercise duration by about a quarter would be a safe way to go.

Consider Safety and the Weather

Finally if you do exercise outside, be sure to take into account the weather and safety concerns.  For example if the wind chill factor brings the apparent temperature close to freezing or below working outside is not the safest of ideas.  Also, if you exercise in an area that is not well lit, or in the early morning or evening, wearing reflective clothing is essential.  After all, you want to make sure other peoples and vehicles can see you properly.

 Above all, have fun, and keep at it!

About Laura Seeber ( 7 Posts )

Laura Seeber is a geologist, environmental professional, writer, and outdoor and nature enthusiast. Born just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Laura has spent the majority of her life hiking through the forest, descending into caves, climbing over boulders and up cliffs, navigating river rapids, and writing and blogging about her adventures. She currently resides in Illinois and travels country in search of the next great outdoor activity or adventure.

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