January: The best of times, the worst of times.
It’s the best because New Year’s Resolutions are in full swing! We’re all excited for a fresh start and new goals.
It’s the worst because New England winter weather can be brutal and when it’s cold and snowy out there, the instant gratification of curling up with a mug of hot chocolate can easily seem to outweigh our motivation to get out there and get moving.
Here’s an excerpt:
BUDDY UP. Exercising with a friend even once a week can help you get out the door, as it’s harder to blow off a workout if you know that someone is waiting for you. And you don’t necessarily have to run or walk. Making dates to lift weights at the gym or take a yoga or Pilates class can help you stay on track with these activities.
STAY VISIBLE. When the days are short, you’re more likely to be walking or running in the dark. Wear reflective, fluorescent gear and use a headlamp or carry a flashlight so you can see where you’re going. (As always, remember to walk or run against the flow of traffic.)
FORGET ABOUT SPEED. Snow and ice can make things very dicey. When you do run or walk, don’t worry about how fast or slow you’re going. Just get into a rhythm that feels easy and comfortable.
FIND STABLE FOOTING. Look for snow that’s been packed down—it will provide better traction. Fresh powder can cover up ice patches. Run on the street if it’s been plowed, provided that it’s safe from traffic, and watch out for areas that could have black ice. Use the sidewalk if it’s clear of ice and slippery snow. Find a well-lit route, slow your pace, and make sure you’re familiar with areas of broken concrete.
BE FLEXIBLE. Winter is not the time to be rigid about when, where, and how far you go. If you’re a morning exerciser, you may need to switch to lunchtime workouts, when the air is the warmest and the sun is out; if you usually hit the trails, you may need to stick to well-lit roads or even the treadmill (see below).
TAKE IT INSIDE. If the roads are covered with ice, it’s better to work out inside than risk hurting yourself. (See treadmill workouts here.) If you can’t bear the treadmill, use the elliptical trainer or stair machine or “run” in deep water for the same amount of time that you’d spend running or walking. By the way, the treadmill doesn’t have to feel like torture. Play around with the speed and incline to fend off boredom. Most treadmills come with pre-programmed workouts that do the changing for you, so try those, too.
WARM UP INSIDE. Before you head out the door, move around indoors enough to get the blood flowing and gradually raise the heart rate, without breaking a sweat. This will help your workout feel easier sooner into the workout. Run in place, walk up and down your stairs, do some jumping jacks, use a jump rope… whatever it takes to get your heart beating faster.
HEAD INTO THE WIND. If you can, start your walk or run facing the wind and finish with it at your back. Otherwise, you’ll work up a sweat and then turn directly into a cold blast. Not fun! To avoid a long, biting slog, you can break this into segments, walking or running into the wind for 10 minutes, turning around to walk or run with the wind at your back for five minutes, and repeating.
DON’T FORGET TO DRINK. Even when it’s cold, you still lose water through sweating. So it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the winter. Drink half your weight in ounces throughout the day (e.g., if you weigh 150 pounds, aim for 75 ounces of fluids per day).
GET OUT OF THOSE WET CLOTHES! Damp clothing increase heat loss. Immediately after your workout, remove your sweaty clothes and get into a hot shower—or, if you aren’t ready for a shower yet, into something dry and cozy.
HOW TO DRESS FOR VERY COLD WEATHER
COVER YOUR EXTREMITIES. Your nose, fingers, and ears are the first to freeze, so be sure to keep them well protected from wind, wet, and freezing temperatures. Balaclavas—knit masks that cover the whole head, with holes for nose and eyes—are the way to go. Or try a heavy synthetic knit cap pulled down low, with a scarf or neck muffler pulled up high.
WEAR WOOL. Wool retains much of its insulating properties even when it’s wet, thanks to air pockets in the fiber that trap warm air. Socks made from merino wool won’t make your feet feel itchy.
PROTECT YOUR PRIVATES… Wind robs your body of heat. That’s why briefs or boxers with a nylon wind barrier are so important for guys on cold days. The nylon panel on the front of these boxers keeps the heat in and the wind out.
…AND YOUR HANDS. Mittens keep your hands warmer than gloves by creating a big warm air pocket around your entire hand. Pick a pair with a nylon shell, or wear glove liners underneath. If your hands start to feel numb and look pale, warm them as soon as possible, as these are early signs of frostbite.
WEAR A SHELL. On wet days, look for a shell that will not only keep you dry and protected from the snow or sleet, but will also vent the moisture you create as you sweat. Many jackets are made from waterproof, breathable fabrics and have large midback and underarm vents.
Get out there and have fun, stay safe & stay warm! Happy running!