The weather is getting colder, but does that mean you should buy an expensive gym membership just to get your 5k in on a treadmill still slick with sweat from the last guy? No way! Whether you’re running for cross training or hell-bent on shooting hoops until the snow starts falling, you can benefit (not to mention save money) by keeping your exercise out of doors this fall, even as temperatures take a dive. Here are a few considerations to keep yourself warm, dry and active as the leaves start falling, now through the rest of the year.
Layer up, and with the right clothes
First and foremost, the key to keeping warm (but not too warm) is throwing on multiple layers. But before you reach for your favourite cotton Lakers hoodie for a chilly day on the court, remember that cotton will absorb everything you sweat out, leaving you feeling like a wet mess, not to mention even colder when a stiff breeze hits. Grab form-fitting technical fabrics that wick sweat away from your body—usually a T shirt, long-sleeved shirt and a windbreaker will do. As you warm up, ditch the pieces bit by bit until you’re comfortable. If you’re worried about carrying too much on a run, however, the rule of thumb is dressing for a day about 40 degrees warmer than it is outdoors: as your body builds up heat, you won’t notice the difference in temperature. Finally, consider that the days are getting shorter and most of your training will either be before or after work, in the dark. Make sure your outermost layer has some reflective bands if you’re putting in a few miles along the road or in the park.
Warm up and cool down properly
If you’re taking our advice and dressing a few degrees lighter, nothing may kill your will to stay active than the shocking difference between your toasty apartment and the blast of crisp air you’re stepping out into. Thus, it’s important to build up at least a little bit of a sweat with a proper warm up. Do some light free or body weight exercises to get the juices flowing. You may also be tempted to do some static stretches—don’t. Static stretches work best after a workout and, if done before cold weather training, may cause your muscles to stiffen up even more from the temperature, leading to higher chances of injury. Dynamic or ballistic stretches will limber you up and also generate some nice body heat.
The cool down is just as important. Nothing is less comfortable than peeling off sweaty layers in your warm house only to burn yourself out after you realize you’ve been sealing in 50 degrees the whole time. After a hard workout, you may feel disoriented, dizzy or lightheaded as your blood flow tries to correct itself—neither a good feeling nor particularly healthy for your cardiovascular system. Take the opportunity after you exercise to walk around the block or chat with your buddies around the court until you start feeling a little chilly again. Finish off with some static stretches on your freshly exercised muscles, and you’re golden to come back in for a protein shake.
Hydration is even more important
Yes, it’s cooler in the fall, but that means keeping hydrated is even more important (surprise!). Unlike in the summer, you won’t necessarily notice yourself sweating as much, and if you stop sweating altogether, that means you’ve run your way into the danger zone and are now facing dehydration. The solution is simple: bring along a little more water than you’re used to carrying with you to keep yourself nice and hydrated. Post-exercise, you will be thanking yourself because it also helps keep skin that’s exposed to the elements moisturized, reducing the likelihood of chapped lips and dry hands.
Eat for warmth
Keeping warm also means putting a little extra fuel into the tank. To combat the cold, your body goes into overdrive and burns extra calories to keep you warm on top of those it burns to keep you moving. Stick to the usual athlete’s diet, but blow it up by an extra 15-20 percent. That means not only some extra carbs to provide your body with an easily-activated source of energy, but also extra protein and fat to give you a little more fuel for when the workout goes into overtime. Fish is chock full of useful lean protein that won’t work against your fitness goals, and avocados provide a great “good fat” to round out your winter diet.