Before heading outside and into winter, it is important to have a warm core. That means both physically and also mentally, so you are prepared for the change. 'The doorstep mile' is often the hardest as you make that step into the cold for run, dog-walk, cycle or any other cold weather exercise, so being mentally prepared is key, having the home setup for your return, set the thermostat right, have the kettle filled and ready for that hot brew when you come in. I do a lot of night running at this time of year, which doesn’t mean the middle of the night, but 5pm when it is already pitch dark - so the psychology of stepping into the cold and dark takes practice. Some star jumps, some running on the spot, a few minutes core circuits are all good ways to get the blood pumping before stepping into the cold, so that doorstep mile are a bit more bearable.
What to wear
Layers are the key. It is the air between layers that keeps you warm, not the fabric themselves. So a base, mid and top layer is much better than one thick jacket. Also, know your cold! Cold and wet is very different to cold and dry - so you need to learn to dress accordingly. Think of your clothing as ways of getting ’tucked in,’ so a buff, a hat, gloves and warm socks are essential to keep warmth in the extremities and stop any drafts! Your base layer needs to be moisture wicking, so merino is ideal. The fastest way to get cold when exercising is your own sweat cooling on your skin and also wind chill. So in cold, wet and windy conditions having an outer layer that deflects the elements whilst not turning you into a ‘boil-in-a-bag’ is crucial. I often run in a wind stopper gillet, to keep the wind off me, but still allowing sweet to wick away. In UK conditions, choose primaloft over down every time, as it is a crucial warm layer than stays warm when wet.
What Exercise to do
When exercising in the cold, have a longer warm up. Your muscles are more likely to injure when cold, and if the air temperature is cold then it takes longer for them to become fluid. Be very careful of doing high intensity work in the cold, especially if you don’t have a warmer layer to throw on keep warm. In the cold I prefer to go out for longer, moderate intensity session, whether that is jogging or cycling, so it is easier to moderate my core temperature. Staying hydrated when exercising in the cold also takes more effort a you don’t naturally get thirsty when it is cold, so you have to form habits to remember to drink regularly and often.
How to warm up when you get home
We all know that feeling of standing in the shower with toes burning as they defrost. It isn’t pleasant, but does show you have had an adventure! If you or anyone gets over cold, in the sense that you are concerned about hypothermic, don’t warm up too fast as you will have lost your nerve sensitivity and may not feel when you are burning yourself either with a hot drink or with a hot shower. Assuming you aren’t concerned about your degree of cold, and simply coming in from exercising in the cold, then after you have stopped your glasses steaming up, get any wet kit off as quickly as possible, get a warm drink and some food in quickly, and always within 20 minutes, and be aware that when you are tired and then stop, your body temperature is likely to drop quickly, so dry clothes, keep a hat on, even inside and let your body adjust. This can take an hour or so after coming in from the cold.
We hope that you find Mark's exercising tips useful. All you have to do now is get out into the great outdoors, get prepared, wrap up warm! There are many great adventures to be had in the great outdoors even in the cold!