When it comes to late autumn, we start to regret going outside. The chilly air that greets you is a reminder of what’s to come: winter. When the days get shorter and the clothes get longer. When the motivation to get outside and exercise starts to wane. But don’t let the cold temperatures keep you from staying consistent with your workouts. Check out these facts and tips to help you keep warm and stay fit through the colder months.
When you step out into the cold, you might notice you start to shiver. This is the main automatic adjustment your body makes to warm itself up. Shivering is the movement of tiny cells and muscles, causing friction, which eventually produces heat. As you start moving outdoors, the shivers will naturally increase your body temperature.
Another way your body reacts to the cold is with vasoconstriction. Put simply, this is the constriction (or ‘shrinking’) of the blood vessels, reducing the amount of blood sent through the veins and arteries to the body’s appendages. Organs and muscles need blood based on their level of activity; this is why more blood gets sent to the digestive system after breakfast or working muscles receive blood during a run. When we’re cold, the body knows that the most vital thing is to keep the core organs warm and working — more crucial, in an emergency, than sending blood to your fingers and toes — so more blood stays in your core than in the extremities. Initially, the reduced blood flow makes moving outside difficult, but you’ll have warmed up in no time once you start exercising.
Our bodies are amazing. They can adapt to almost anything, including cold weather. By regularly training in the cold, your core temperature will decrease. You’ll begin to feel more comfortable in colder climates, and your shivering threshold will decrease. In addition, your metabolism will increase, allowing energy systems to function more efficiently with your developed physical response to cold. You can expect to see these adaptations after approximately 14 days.
Now you have a better understanding of what happens to the body during regular cold weather training, there are a few tips you can apply to your winter workouts. As the temperature decreases, your muscles will feel more and more stiff, making warm ups crucial. In a normal environment, warming up prepares the muscles for activation and sends blood and fluid to the muscles so the joints are ready to move. When it’s cold, your chances of injury are much higher if you skip the warm up. Even a quick five minute bout of cardio before you start will reduce your chances of needing to visit the doctor, letting you carry on working out.
Choose warm clothes and a smart fabric. This may surprise you, but avoid wearing a tight base layer. It’s not the fabric that keeps us warm, but the insulating layer of air between the skin and your clothes. Polypropylene fabric is an excellent base layer. Follow that with a goose down layer then a windbreaker, and you’re ready to get moving!
Don’t let the cold temperatures keep you inside. It only takes 14 days for your body to adapt and the reward definitely outweighs the risk.
Maddy has worked in the health and fitness industry for 5 years. She has a bachelors in Exercise Science and has recently received her Masters in Exercise Physiology. She has worked with a wide demographic of clients as a Personal Trainer and loves helping people reach their goals and continue to grow. She is an outdoor enthusiast and dedicates her workouts to rock climbing, hiking and whatever new experiences may come her way.
Main Photo Credit: lkoimages/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Dirima/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Alexander Davidyuk/shutterstock.com