Cold Weather Workouts
By Kelli Calabrese MS, CSCS, ACE
Just as summer heat is a serious factor to consider, the chilly winter months
can put a freeze on your outdoor workouts. The biggest concern for exercising in
the cold is hypothermia, or too much heat loss. When you exercise in a cold
environment you must consider one primary factor: how much heat will your body
lose during exercise?
Our body fat and clothing help insulate our bodies from the cold temperatures,
wind and air. Ideally, you want your body to be comfortable during exercise so
you can perform at your best. Those with more body fat including babies are
better insulated and will lose less heat.
Today’s clothing is very sophisticated and can wisk the sweat off your body and
keep the heat in. Your clothing choices should be made to be comfortable and
insulate you while exercising in the cold. By wearing a hat you may be able to
exercise outdoors longer and more comfortably without risking frost bite or
Your clothing can help you maintain your body temperature without getting cold.
You should expect to sweat even in the coolest temperatures. You should always
choose clothing that will allow the sweat to be passed through and taken away
from the body.
By wearing clothing in layers, you have the ability to change the amount of
insulation needed. While many new products can provide such a layered barrier,
it's important to avoid heavy cotton sweats or tightly woven material that will
absorb and retain water. Because these materials cannot provide a layer of dry
air near the skin, they can increase the amount of heat your body loses as you
Keeping the hands and feet warm is a common concern when exercising in the cold.
Lower temperatures cause blood to be shunted away from the hands and feet to the
center of the body to keep the internal organs warm and protected.
Superficial warming of the hands will return blood flow to prevent tissue
damage. You can place hand warmers in your gloves for added protection against
the cold. Blood flow will not return to the feet unless the temperature of the
torso is normal or slightly higher. So, to keep your feet warm you must also
keep the rest of your body warm at all times.
Always check the temperature and wind chill before exercising in the cold. Data
from the National Safety Council suggests little danger to individuals with
properly clothed skin exposed at 20° F, even with a 30 mph wind.
A danger does exist for people with exposed skin when the wind chill factor
(combined effect of temperature and wind) falls below minus 20° F. That can be
achieved by any combination of temperatures below 20° F with a wind of 40 mph
and temperatures below minus 20° F with no wind. If you are exercising near the
danger zone for skin exposure, it's also advisable to warm the air being inhaled
by wearing a scarf or mask over your nose and mouth to warm the air being
If your instinct is that the conditions may be hazardous, opt for an indoor
activity or take the day off. A victim of a cold injury or hypothermia will
display signs similar to someone who is intoxicated. If a person does suffer
from a cold injury, remove them from the cold and warm them as quickly as
possible. Follow with warm fluids. If the person has frostbite do not rub or
massage the frozen skin. This will cause significant damage to the tissue.
You can enjoy exercise in the great outdoors with some precautions. Don't let
the winter keep you from attaining the fitness goals you desire and deserve. The
world is your gym. Enjoy it.
Kelli Calabrese MS, CSCS, 2004 Personal Trainer of the Year - Online Training.
Kelli is a 20 year fitness industry leader. She has 3 fitness related degrees
and 24 Fitness, Nutrition and Lifestyle related certifications. Kelli is the
former Lead Fitness Expert for eDiets and eFitness and remains a regular
contributor. Kelli is the author of Feminine, Firm & Fit - Building A Lean
Strong Body in 12 Weeks www.FeminineFirmandFit.com. She has transformed
thousands of bodies just like yours. She is available for phone coaching, online
training, grocery shopping tours, seminars, and media opportunities. For more
information go to www.KelliCalabrese.com
or e-mail Kelli@KelliCalabrese.com