Outdoor winter workouts can be an exhilarating experience for fitness enthusiasts. Working out in the crisp cold weather is bracing and energising. It also helps burn more calories because the body has to work harder to stay warm. However, the cold weather also increases the risk of injuries.
If you’re planning on continuing your outdoor workouts this winter, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself from common cold-related injuries.
Common Winter-Related Injuries
These are some of the more common injuries that are related to low temperatures:
Staying out in the cold for extended periods can cause the core temperature of your body to drop below 35 degrees Celsius. Shivering is the first indication of hypothermia. If you don’t get out of the cold soon, you could experience drowsiness and loss of coordination. In extreme cases, it could result in unconsciousness.
Sprains & Strains
Even experienced runners are more prone to sprains and strains when working out in cold weather. This is because the ligaments, joints, and tendons become tighter and less elastic in the cold. The cold also reduces blood circulation, increasing the risk of injury even more.
Slip & Fall Injuries
Pavements tend to be wet and slippery in winter, which increases the risks of slipping and falling. There’s a higher risk of slipping and falling when working out early morning or late evening because of low visibility.
Blisters & Frostbite
Moisture that gets into your shoes from the rain, sleet, or snow can cause blisters if you don’t change into dry socks immediately. In extremely low temperatures or if you’re not wearing warm enough socks and proper footwear, you may also be at risk of frostbite.
This one may surprise you as there’s barely any sunlight in the UK in winter for sunburn, right? Wrong. The sun’s UV rays can be just as harmful during the winter months as they are in the summer, especially when they reflect off snow or water, potentially increasing exposure. This is why dermatologists and health experts recommend wearing sunscreen throughout the year, regardless of the weather or temperature.
9 Tips To Avoid Injuries During Outdoor Winter Workouts
Protection against injuries from winter workouts focuses on three things – what to wear, your pre-workout routine, and what you do after and between workouts.
Wear layered clothing
Layered clothing keeps out the cold far more effectively than one bulky jacket. Wear two or three layers on your chest for sufficient protection against the chilly winds. A pair of long johns under your track pants should keep your lower body warm enough.
Be careful not to overdress though – you want to stay warm without overheating. Also, too many layers will restrict your movement and make it difficult to work out.
Protect Joints With Wraps And Supports
Joints are more susceptible to injury in cold weather. Protecting your knees, ankles, and elbows with appropriate wraps and supports can minimise the risk of injury to your joints. Wearing thick, long socks can help keep your feet, ankles, and shins warm.
Pay Attention To Your Footwear
The rain, sleet and snow make for dangerously slippery conditions. Wearing a pair of shoes with good traction will keep your feet firmly on the ground and reduce the chances of slipping and falling.
Spend Extra Time Warming Up
Stretching and warming up before a workout is important in any weather and even more so in winter. When temperatures drop too low, blood circulation decreases and ligaments, joints, and tendons tend to become tighter and less elastic. Starting a rigorous workout without sufficient time spent stretching and warming up first can leave your connective tissues more susceptible to tearing. Not only will you be in pain but you’ll have to put your workout on hold for a few weeks at least, setting you back from your fitness goals.
A warmup routine helps your muscles loosen up gradually and also increases blood circulation gradually. Both these together will reduce the risk of sprains and strains.
You may not sweat as much as you do while working out in winter but your body still loses some amount of water through sweating even with the lightest workout. Besides, in winter, the air tends to be drier and draws more water from your body, leaving your body water-deficient. The more rigorous your workout, the more water your body loses. When working out in winter, make sure to drink enough fluid, even if you’re not perspiring or you don’t feel dehydrated.
Apply Sunscreen If Necessary
You may not need to apply sunscreen when working out early morning or late evening when it’s dark but you need adequate protection against UV rays when working out during the day as explained earlier. Make sure to apply sunscreen on all exposed areas of skin.
People with lighter-coloured skin tend to burn more easily even with minimum exposure to the sun. If this describes you, you should use sunscreen with high SPF to protect your skin.
Avoid Getting Wet
Working out in damp clothes puts you at high risk of chafing, blisters, and hypothermia. It’s best to work out indoors on days when it’s raining or snowing. If you must continue your outdoor workout routine, make sure to wear clothing that will keep your whole body dry. This means wearing a waterproof jacket and trousers, as well as headwear and footwear that will wick away water.
Spend Time Cooling Down
Cooling down after a workout is just as important as warming up before the workout. A proper cool-down routine will get your heart rate and breathing down to a resting state and also initiate the process of muscle repair. This will get your body ready for an injury-free day.
Take A Rest Day Or Two
Your body uses up a lot of energy and your muscles work twice as hard during winter workouts so they’ll need extra time to rest and recover. Without sufficient recovery time, you’ll be running on empty very soon, increasing the risk of overexertion, fatigue, and muscle tears. When this happens, you’ll be forced to stop completely to give your body the time it needs to repair and recover. This will completely disrupt not just your workout routine but your everyday routine too.
Preparing for outdoor winter workouts is the only way to prevent the higher risk of injuries related to lower temperatures. The tips above are the absolute minimum injury prevention measures that you should do when working out in winter weather.