Advice for Athletes

5 Must-Do’s for Outdoor Winter Workouts

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By Nick Parkinson, M.Ed., ATC, AT

Exercising outdoors in any season has a number of added benefits. It reduces tension and stress, boosts your energy level and vitamin D, connects you with Mother Nature and saves you from spending money on expensive gym fees. The winter months, though, can pose some unique health and safety hazards.

To maximize your workout and reduce your risk of injury, here are five tips for your outdoor winter workouts:

  1. Check the weather. If the temperature is sub-zero or there’s a severe wind chill, you might rethink your workout for the day. Below is a helpful chart to limit the risks of frostbite and windburn. Know the signs and symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia. Plan your workout so the wind is at your back during the second half. That way, you’re less likely to get chilled because your exposed, damp face will be heading the same direction as the wind.
  1. Layer up. Because exercise generates heat, it’s helpful if you can peel off a layer of clothing as your body warms up. The key to staying dry and comfortable is in picking the right material for each layer. Start with a synthetic material like polypropylene, which keeps sweat away from your body. Conversely, cotton material stays soaked when it gets wet. Add a layer of wool or fleece for insulation, then top with a waterproof outer layer.
  1. Protect your head, hands and feet. When the temperature drops, the body protects itself by sending blood to your core to keep your internal organs warm. However, that leaves your head, hands and feet vulnerable to the cold. Consider a pair of glove liners made of polypropylene underneath fleece or wool mittens. Once the sweat kicks in, you can remove the mittens and stick with the gloves. A hat is a must because the head is where 30 percent of the body’s heat loss takes place. A loose scarf over your nose and mouth is also recommended to protect your lungs. Grip covers for your shoes can provide traction on icy and snow surfaces to reduce your risk for slip and falls.
  1. Go reflective. Wearing reflective gear allows other people on the road to see you, especially with winter’s limited daylight hours or on especially gray or snowy days.
  1. Hydrate. You may not feel thirsty in the cold, but it’s still important to stay hydrated with water. Replenish your fluid intake by drinking before, during and after your workout to protect the body from injury and to stay warm.

Stay safe and warm, and enjoy your workout!

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Written By:

Nick Parkinson, M.Ed., ATC, AT

Nick has been part of the Henry Ford team since 2013, and currently works with the student athletes at University of Detroit Jesuit High School, as well as serving in the role of Lead Athletic Trainer with Henry Ford Sports Medicine. He has also provided athletic training services to the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, and the Great Lakes Loons, a Class A minor league affiliate of the L.A. Dodgers, as well as other high school teams. Nick was named High School Athletic Trainer of the Year in 2018 by the Michigan Athletic Trainers Society. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training/Sports Medicine from Central Michigan University and a master’s degree in Kinesiology from Auburn University.

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