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Cold Weather Workouts

Cold Weather Workouts
By Kelli Calabrese MS, CSCS, ACE

Just as summer heat is a serious factor to consider, the chilly winter months can put a freeze on your outdoor workouts. The biggest concern for exercising in the cold is hypothermia, or too much heat loss. When you exercise in a cold environment you must consider one primary factor: how much heat will your body lose during exercise?

Our body fat and clothing help insulate our bodies from the cold temperatures, wind and air. Ideally, you want your body to be comfortable during exercise so you can perform at your best. Those with more body fat including babies are better insulated and will lose less heat.

Today's clothing is very sophisticated and can wisk the sweat off your body and keep the heat in. Your clothing choices should be made to be comfortable and insulate you while exercising in the cold. By wearing a hat you may be able to exercise outdoors longer and more comfortably without risking frost bite or hypothermia.

Your clothing can help you maintain your body temperature without getting cold. You should expect to sweat even in the coolest temperatures. You should always choose clothing that will allow the sweat to be passed through and taken away from the body.

By wearing clothing in layers, you have the ability to change the amount of insulation needed. While many new products can provide such a layered barrier, it's important to avoid heavy cotton sweats or tightly woven material that will absorb and retain water. Because these materials cannot provide a layer of dry air near the skin, they can increase the amount of heat your body loses as you exercise.

Keeping the hands and feet warm is a common concern when exercising in the cold. Lower temperatures cause blood to be shunted away from the hands and feet to the center of the body to keep the internal organs warm and protected.

Superficial warming of the hands will return blood flow to prevent tissue damage. You can place hand warmers in your gloves for added protection against the cold. Blood flow will not return to the feet unless the temperature of the torso is normal or slightly higher. So, to keep your feet warm you must also keep the rest of your body warm at all times.

Always check the temperature and wind chill before exercising in the cold. Data from the National Safety Council suggests little danger to individuals with properly clothed skin exposed at 20' F, even with a 30 mph wind.

A danger does exist for people with exposed skin when the wind chill factor (combined effect of temperature and wind) falls below minus 20' F. That can be achieved by any combination of temperatures below 20' F with a wind of 40 mph and temperatures below minus 20' F with no wind. If you are exercising near the danger zone for skin exposure, it's also advisable to warm the air being inhaled by wearing a scarf or mask over your nose and mouth to warm the air being inhaled.

If your instinct is that the conditions may be hazardous, opt for an indoor activity or take the day off. A victim of a cold injury or hypothermia will display signs similar to someone who is intoxicated. If a person does suffer from a cold injury, remove them from the cold and warm them as quickly as possible. Follow with warm fluids. If the person has frostbite do not rub or massage the frozen skin. This will cause significant damage to the tissue.

You can enjoy exercise in the great outdoors with some precautions. Don't let the winter keep you from attaining the fitness goals you desire and deserve. The world is your gym. Enjoy it.

Kelli Calabrese MS, CSCS, 2004 Personal Trainer of the Year - Online Training. Kelli is a 20 year fitness industry leader. She has 3 fitness related degrees and 24 Fitness, Nutrition and Lifestyle related certifications. Kelli is the former Lead Fitness Expert for eDiets and eFitness and remains a regular contributor. Kelli is the author of Feminine, Firm & Fit - Building A Lean Strong Body in 12 Weeks She has transformed thousands of bodies just like yours. She is available for phone coaching, online training, grocery shopping tours, seminars, and media opportunities. For more information go to
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