Don’t give up your outdoor workout routine due to the cold weather. Instead, says Bend physical therapist Laura Cooper, just go into each cold-weather workout prepared while following certain common-sense precautions.
“Preparation and knowledge are keys to safely exercising in any extreme environment, whether it’s during the height of summer or the dead of winter,” said Cooper, clinic director of Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy in Bend. “During this time of year, it’s important to keep in mind the four pillars of cold-weather exercise, each of which is equally important to consider: clothing, balance, hydration and common sense.”
Cooper said when planning for cold-weather running, cycling, hiking, skiing, etc., clothing considerations should take into account layering, head protection and covering the extremities.
“One of the biggest mistakes one can make is dressing too warm,” she said. “If you over-dress, you’ll feel warm at first, but once you start to sweat, cold will set in. That’s why we wear layers — so we can shed outer layers as we start warming and before we get too drenched in sweat.”
The inner-most layer should be made of synthetic microfibers that dry quickly and wick sweat away from the body. Since circulation to your extremities will be hindered as blood flow concentrates in the core of your body, cover your hands and feet in layers, too. Top off with a hat to prevent the escape of up to 50 percent of your body’s heat.
During the winter season, Cooper points out the risk of falls — and the potential for fall-related injuries — increases considerably. Her advice: be prepared with proper footwear. Outfit yourself with a pair of Yaktrax — the metal coils many runners and walkers strap onto their shoes to prevent slipping.
This is a no-brainer when working out, yet it’s something that can be overlooked — perhaps not even noticed, in some cases — during colder weather. According to Cooper, drink water before, during and after your workout, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
If it is just unbearably cold or there are high winds and a snow storm, keep your workout inside. “It’s just not worth the risk, nor is it worth the risk if you suffer from asthma, heart problems, etc.,” Cooper added. “If you have a medical condition you feel may be exacerbated by putting stress on the body, check with your doctor before exercising in cold weather.”
And if aches, pains or injury are keeping you from a regular exercise regimen, visit a physical therapist like those on the Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy team for a full assessment. Physical therapists are specifically certified medical professionals whose goals are to help reduce pain and improve or restore your ability to move well.