There are two types of people in this world: those who find the idea of willingly working out in cold weather laughable and those who will spring at the chance to use the frigid temperatures to their advantage and potentially burn more calories.
While the jury's still out as to whether or not working out in cold weather actually increases calorie burn, the desire to maintain an outdoor exercise regimen throughout the cold winter months is still a common one. Whether you're training for a marathon or simply can't give up that dose of fresh air and vitamin D for six months out of the year, we're here to coach you through your wintry workouts.
We tapped iFit trainer Mecayla Froerer, CPT, for her official guide to working out in cold weather. Find her six tips below, and shop our cold-weather workout essentials to prep for the season ahead.
Tip #1: Choose an Activity You Enjoy
While working out in cold weather certainly limits your choice of activities, it's important to choose a workout that you love. "Exercise shouldn't be a task or a burden—it should be a time to release endorphins and de-stress," notes Froerer. This sentiment still holds true in the wintertime.
She even suggests embracing the cold and opting for a winter sport like skiing, snowboarding, or ice skating, if those activities are of interest. "Whatever it is you love to do, make time for it," she suggests. "Get up and keep and get moving—that's the most important part."
Of course, "running is always a great workout for cold weather," she adds. "Sometimes getting outside in the sunshine to soak up vitamin D is exactly what you need." No matter what workout you choose, make sure you do a proper warm-up—waking up your muscles and preparing your body for strenuous physical exercise is even more important in the colder temperatures.
The most obvious tip is perhaps the most important one. Working out in cold weather can be dangerous—it's crucial to plan your outdoor workouts around the weather forecast and change your plans if a storm comes through. "Be aware of the weather forecast, and take note of your surroundings," she cautions. "Icy sidewalks and snow can be a slipping hazard."
The forecast should also determine your cold-weather workout accessories. When the temperatures dip below freezing, "protecting your head, ears, hands, and feet is critical," she notes. "Your body loses a lot of heat through those locations—it's important to keep them covered." Wearing a hat, headband, gloves, neck warmer, or scarf can protect you from frostbite.
Extreme temperatures aside, your core should always be properly outfitted for cold-weather workouts. "Dress in layers that are easy to remove or put back on," suggests Froerer. "Once your muscles get warmed up, you can always shed a layer—it's better to be overprepared than underprepared."
If you plan on braving the snow or truly frigid temperatures, you should also consider waterproof and/or fleece-lined running gear. She recommends these fleece-lined leggings from Lululemon. You also might want to invest in a waterproof pair of outdoor running shoes. Nike's Air Zoom Pegasus Water Repellent Running Shoes were designed specifically for more extreme weather conditions.
"When it's cold outside, it may be harder to recognize when you're dehydrated," she explains. "It's still important to drink plenty of fluids and replenish just as you would in the heat." Since sports drinks can sometimes contain high amounts of sugar and other additives, she recommends checking the nutrition labels and ingredients before your workout. Water is always a good option—just be sure to bring a small water bottle with you.
Tip #5: Always Wear Sunscreen
Froerer's next bit of advice holds true all winter long, whether you're working out or not. "Even though it may be frigid cold outside, the effects of the sun remain the same," she notes. Always apply sunscreen no matter what the weather conditions, and consider wearing lightweight sunglasses to "help diminish the glare of the sun on your white-covered surroundings."
While your body and brain might be craving the great outdoors after being cooped up all winter, it's important to always listen to your body before heading out for a run.
"The outdoor elements add an additional layer of intensity to your workout," explains Froerer. "If your body feels too tired to take on the challenge, listen to it." She suggests supplementing outdoor workouts with indoor training to prevent injury or overexertion in the winter. "Jump on a treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike instead of heading outside, or opt for indoor cross-training and get your sweat on."
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.