When the temperature drops, even the most devoted outdoor exercise devotees may be tempted to stay inside. But with a proper warm-up and the right cold-weather workout apparel, your outdoor workout might just feel — dare we say — a little bit easier and more appealing.
How Cold Weather Affects Your Body
Your runny nose isn’t the only part of your body affected by cold weather. When you’re exposed to frigid temperatures, your body directs blood flow away from your limbs and toward your core in order to protect your vital organs, says Blake Dircksen, CSCS, doctor of physical therapy at Bespoke Treatments in New York City.
Cold weather also places unique stressors on the body. In addition to a decrease in blood flow, the cold causes a co-contraction of opposing muscles, or what you’ll more likely know as shivering, Dircksen says. While you’re not necessarily more prone to injury in the cold, without a proper warm-up, you may be more susceptible to decreased reaction times and impaired movement patterns.
“Additionally, cold weather places stress on the pulmonary system by drying out the lining of the airways, which can lead to an inflammatory reaction and that ‘lung burn’ we’ve all felt,” says Dircksen. If you have asthma or other lung or breathing problems, cold weather can make things worse. And in that case, you should check with a doctor to make sure it’s safe for you to exercise outside in the cold.
Cold-Weather Workout Warm Up
Before you bundle up and head outdoors (and make sure you wear lots of layers), do the following warm-up in the comfort of your home, office or gym, says Dircksen. Also, increase the intensity of your workout gradually, giving your body plenty of time to acclimate.
Move 1: World’s Greatest Stretch
- Begin in a runner’s lunge with your left leg at a 90-degree angle and your right leg straight out behind you.
- Place your hands on the ground, framing the front foot, palms in line with the shoulder.
- Keeping your right hand rooted, stretch your left hand above your head, opening your body to the left side.
- Pause for a few moments and bring the hand back to the ground.
- Continue raising and lowering the left arm for eight repetitions.
- Switch legs, bringing the right leg to the front and repeat on this side.
- Do two rounds of eight reps on each side.
Move 2: Body-Weight Squats
- Begin with your legs slightly wider than hip-width distance apart.
- Keeping your back flat and shoulders back, bend at the knees and slowly lower your body toward the ground as if sitting back into a chair.
- Once your thighs are parallel to the ground, press through the heels and return to standing.
- Perform this exercise for 15 reps, two rounds total.
Move 3: Jumping Jacks
- Begin with your legs at about shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides.
- Jump your legs a few feet apart and simultaneously raise your arms over your head.
- As soon as you land, jump your legs back together and bring your arms back to your sides.
- Continue alternating for 25 reps and do two sets.
Move 4: B Skips
- Skip (either in place or moving forward) by bringing your right knee up toward your chest and lightly hop a few inches forward with your left leg.
- Lower and plant your right leg, raising your left leg and skipping with your right.
- Continue alternating your legs for 20 high knees and two sets.
Move 5: Dynamic Side Plank
- Begin in a side plank position with one elbow and forearm rooted into the ground, legs stacked on top of each other (or one in front of the other for more stability). Raise your top arm toward the sky.
- Keeping your hips high, reach your free arm under your torso without falling forward.
- Open your arm back up toward the sky.
- Continue the reach-through for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.