Cold Weather Workout Wisdom


Tips and Tricks for Cold Weather Sports and Exercise

by David Clair – Fitness For Living Boot Camps

One of the best ways to beat the winter blues is exercising outside. Whether you like to hike, bike, run, ski, snowshoe or snowboard, integrate these tips for staying toasty and inspired to make the most of winter fun.

We tapped the collective brains of experts in the know about preparing, both physically and mentally for outdoor activities as the mercury drops. Read on for winter sport and exercise tips from staff of and Fitness for Living and The Women’s Wilderness Institute.

Universal Winter Wisdom

No matter if you’re planning a quick winter workout or a longer day of snowy adventure; these are the five most important things you can do to keep your body in tip-top winter shape:

  1. Hydrate! You won’t feel as thirsty in the cold so remember to drink during and, just as important, after your workout. Keep your water liquid by packing a wide mouth water bottle or use hydration bladder with an insulated hose, and blow water back into the bag after drinking to prevent a frozen tube. If you are going to be out all day, bring a thermos of hot water, tea, soup or chocolate for an extra treat!
  2. Regulate your body temperature. You can get warm quickly in even the coldest weather, but you will cool down just as fast when you stop for a break. The trick is to wear light layers that you can take on and off, keeping yourself warm without sweating too much. A breathable outer layer that permits water vapor to escape will help too.
  3. Protect your extremities. Hands, feet, head and ears are well known escape routes for all that heat your body builds up. Sunscreen, lip balm and sun glasses are also essential.
    * Happy hands. Wear glove liners to protect your fingers from bitter cold when you need more mobility than mittens provide. For longer outings, pack an extra pair of dry gloves and if you get really cold, bring hand warmers it’s not cheating!
    * Fortified feet. Keep circulation strong by choosing footwear that fits. Opt for a single pair of socks with good loft, as they will leave a little extra space in your boots or shoes for warm air to circulate. Take extra care to keep your feet dry, as nothing sucks away body heat more than water; avoid splashing through wet snow, puddles and streams.
    * Heat your head. If you re warm on top, you’ll feel the insulation all the way through the tips of your fingers and toes. Always bring a hat and a headband is a great additional option to help you regulate your body temp. Hoods, scarves and turtlenecks also help keep heat in around your neck which will reward the whole body.
  4. Ditch the damp clothes ASAP. Have dry clothes on hand, not at home a dry base layer will make a huge difference. If you are going to be out all day, bring a substantial warm outer layer like down jacket or sweater to put on when you stop for a break.
  5. Cool down and stretch. Take ten minutes to ramp down your activity level rather than sprinting for your home or car. Remember to take time to stretch and if you can stretch indoors where it is warm.

Aerobic Activity Acumen

Sound advice for staying warm while moving fast from Fitness for Living

  1. Consider wind chill when preparing to go out. A cool temperature with a heavy wind will feel frigid. Remember that fast motion sports like cycling and skiing increases the wind chill effect. If it is very cold (0 F or below) or you have asthma, wear a face mask or scarf over your mouth.
  2. Warm up slowly. A slow warm up is critical in cold weather to allow your muscles and joints time to loosen and warm up. Stretch only once you are warmed up and after exercising. You can also opt to warm up inside. You re at a much greater risk for a pulled muscle when it is cold and you are not properly warmed up.
  3. Start your workout into the wind and finish with it behind you Heading into the wind at the end of your workout when you are sweaty and tired can get you chilled remarkably quickly.
  4. Modify your exercise expectations. A cold muscle is weaker and ultimately reduces your speed and power. Consider decreasing the intensity or goal of your workout if you cannot maintain a normal body temperature.
  5. Stay safe in icy conditions. Before heading out for a run or walk put on a pair of Yaktrax or other studded shoe slip-on.
  6. If you get chilled, get indoors quickly. Frostbite and hypothermia are real dangers and once you start getting cold (after you have warmed up) it is difficult to reverse.

Sustained Sports Savvy

Additional tips for longer trips from The Women’s Wilderness Institute

  1. Don’t over dress the key is to keep warm without sweating, and have something warm and snuggly to buffer the cold when you stop moving. We recommend starting out feeling comfortably dressed, with light base layers and breathable outerwear. Vests are great because they keep your core warm while providing ventilation.
  2. The 10 essentials bring em all, even if you are just going out for a half-day hike; anyone who lives in the Rockies knows how quickly the weather can change: map, compass, flashlight/headlamp, extra food, extra clothes, sunglasses, First Aid kit, pocket knife, waterproof matches, firestarter.
  3. Keep your cool getting lost in winter can raise the anxiety level of even the most seasoned outdoorswoman. Nevertheless, it’s critical not to panic. If you do find yourself off trail, take a few deep breaths and then make a plan to find your way back. Too often people feel lost and pick up their pace in the wrong direction, instead of realizing they are not far from the trailhead and other travelers.
  4. Be observant and aware of winter hazards like tree wells, avalanche and hypothermia. Keep an eye on your larger surroundings and avoid traveling through terrain that looks questionable. Watch yourself and your partners for signs of shivering, decreased awareness and slurred speech and be proactive in taking good care of each other.
  5. Take a course winter brings a lot of new hazards and situations out there. Don’t be afraid to sign up for a class or clinic a little information can go a long way to making you feel much, much more confident and comfortable out there. Check out The Women’s Wilderness Institute’s 2009 winter schedule at

Fitness For Living has been energizing adults with its unique Fitness Boot Camps for seven years. The camps are designed to challenge all fitness levels. The 5-week camaraderie-styled Boot Camps are held both indoors and out year-round in Boulder, Louisville, Lafayette and Longmont. For additional information visit or call 303-550-3491.

Since 1998, The Women’s Wilderness Institute, a nonprofit organization, has offered wilderness experiences and outdoor adventures for women and teen girls in the Rocky Mountains and the deserts of the Southwest. Trip outings range from summer mountain biking and backpacking to winter skills courses and snowshoeing and telemark skiing clinic. Additional information can be found at or calling 303-938-9191.

Last modified: February 9, 2012

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