Sun is Shining but still Warm Up: the Essentials of Cold Weather Exercise

Disclaimer: this article is written for information purposes only and does not constitute health advice. Always speak to a medical professional for health advice.

Few shall critique someone getting out and about for some exercise when it’s still cold. Sure, you may not quite be Braveheart staring down your mortality, but when the prospect of another hour snoozing under the blankets – or an evening where your greatest trial could be ordering another pizza – lacing up the sneakers and getting out to get the heart racing is surely commendable. When its sunny outside this feel easier – but this can be deceptive if planning a cheeky workout in cold weather.

Exercising in the cold comes with some unique challenges and concerns, whether you’re residing in a chilly part of the world, battling through a really bad winter, or even confronted with a rare but cold summer’s day. A 50 degree day (10c) will not see you risk overheating like an 82 degree (28c) day will, but the potential for injury – as well as just a miserable workout all over on account of extra pain – is very real.

So, before  heading outside be sure to run through a checklist…

Dress Up 

While if exercising outdoors you will warm up a little no matter what it is still essential to dress up a little more before you run up. Even if it just means you ditch your jacket or hoodie once up and firing be sure you don’t go out running in minimalist shoes AND wearing minimalist workout gear. When the sun is out there shall be time to run in firm adherence to your muscle-celebrating ‘suns out, guns out’ policy – but don’t put your health at risk meantime.


‘Wait…I should probally go back and get my thermals.’

Further, while it is not a shortcut to warming up (nor a ‘rubber band’ solution for an inflamed injury) using thermal or compression gear can be a great way to keep you feeling warm when out in the cold. What’s more, while usually you acquire either compression OR thermal gear, there are brands that offer a combination of both.

Yet, unless a combo brand it should be noted while they look the same there is a distinction between the two – compression can keep you warm but is designed to compress whereas thermals can compression but are designer to keep you warm – so be sure to select carefully which one you need dependent on whether your aim is to keep warm (compression )or very warm (thermals) when running. This said, whatever you choose, if the sort of athlete who often finds your arms or legs chilled by a cold burst then be sure to get some gear on.

Start Slow

When your muscles are cold in the winter it can be easier to pull a tendon. So, when starting out whether running, cycling, or doing any sport be sure you start slow.  How exactly you do this shall vary given your normal routine, but be sure to allow at least 10 minutes and focus on your body (don’t be that guy who warms up his legs then pulls a shoulder muscle).

Further, this goes for both indoors and outdoors. You may be set to hop onto the basketball court and throw down like Shaq in this Laker prime,  but if you’ve just walked in from a chilly winter outside the need to warm up remains the same.

Stay Hydrated and Fueled

You may not be drenched in sweat but working out in the cold still takes a toll on your body. So, while you may wish to forgo splashing water on your forehead and palms to cool down mid workout, be sure you keep up your fluid intake throughout the workout (as needed), and drink water thereafter to replenish.

Further, if on one of the longer stints like a 100kms ride – or maybe you just were a bit bored with Netflix tonight and decided to go run up a mountain instead – be sure to take some food with you, whether a banana, some dates, or energy gels to keep you well-fed while powering away.


Mountain Ice

‘It may be cold and Bigfoots after me but this so much better than watching that lame season finale.’

Call it Off it Gets too Cold

Pushing through a bit of a pain barrier is a common feature of physical exercise. This is true throughout the entire athletic prism from the hobbyist runner at your local park all the way up Usain Bolt speeding into history at Rio2016.

Yet, physical exercise does come with its dangers – and just as the heat can see you overheat – so too can cold make it hard. If you are exposed to it in your workout be sure to be careful. If you find yourself getting simply too cold or feeling a degree of pain beyond what is reasonable stop. Call an Uber, get home safe, and try again when your local running track looks less like the North Pole.

Don’t Go For Bests in Bad Weather

It sounds obvious but when in the heart of doing a best time it’s easy to forget. When it’s raining or snowing, be sure to forgo your chance at a best time. While missing out the chance to get down a personal best is unfortunate its far worse to slip in the wet, blow out your knee, and then have your workouts on ice for six months.

By contrast, this need not be read as only in perfect conditions can you get “Faster, Higher, Stronger” – instead it is just about safety and minimising injury risk as you do. So, sad about being unable to break your 10kms run personal best due to it being rainy and slippery outside? Head down to your gym, pick out the biggest guy and challenge him to a push up contest.

Some may say this would increase your chance of injury – but not only would be view be woefully ‘sizeist’ – it overlooks the reality many great friendships have been made with ‘first to 100’. So, have fun.

Polar Bear

‘Man I thought I was the only one into cold weather and push up contests. Wanna be besties?’

Disclaimer: this article is written for information purposes only and does not constitute health advice. Always speak to a medical professional for health advice.

Ed Kennedy is a journalist and web designer proudly from Melbourne, Australia. Say hi to Ed via or on Twitter @EdKennedy01

Ed Kennedy is a journalist, ghostwriter, and web developer from Melbourne, Australia. Contact Ed via on LinkedIn or Twitter@EdKennedy01

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