5 Ways to Optimize Exercise This Winter

Paul Goetz
Paul Goetz
10 minute read
December 26, 2022
Image of a woman stretching her hip flexors before winter exercise.
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I love the arrival of winter. Something about the cold air makes me want to get outside. Suddenly I become a jogger, a workout I usually don’t do. But I never learn. I hit the trail and then have to give up after ten minutes. I forget how hard it is to exercise in the winter. 

You face many challenges when stepping out for a workout this time of year. Your heart and muscles have to work harder and your lungs must take in the frigid air. 

The thing is, there are major benefits associated with winter workouts. Exercising in cold weather can improve endurance and may even burn more calories than in warm weather. Plus, you’re getting vitamin D and boosting your mood.  

So let’s look at five ways you can optimize exercise in the winter and maintain your overall health. 

Prioritize Your Warm-up 

Muscle stiffness and joint pain are common in cold weather. This can be caused by changes in barometric pressure and a thickening of joint fluid due to cold temperatures. 

Stretching before a workout is a must, regardless of the season. In winter, however, it’s important to practice dynamic stretching. This involves more motion than static stretching and helps warm up your muscles before you get moving. Save the static stretches for after your workout. 

Hip circles, arm circles, lunges, and high knees are all great dynamic stretches. Find the ones that suit your type of exercise. You probably don’t need an extensive warm-up before a light walk, but a little movement will get your blood flowing and raise your body temperature.  

Enlist a Workout Partner

When it comes to exercising, going it alone can be tough. Working out with a partner keeps you motivated and accountable while providing a level of healthy competition that can push you to do more. 

A partner is especially beneficial in the winter when you’re more likely to bail on your workout due to the harsh conditions. Having a friend by your side can be a welcome distraction from the cold. If you can’t find a dedicated partner, consider joining an exercise group that gets out a few times a week. 

Remember to Hydrate 

Dehydration can be deceptive in the winter. You feel less thirsty when working out in cold temperatures, which means you’re more likely to forego water breaks or simply forget about them. The problem is that dehydration in the winter is just as dangerous to your health as it is in the summer, so it’s crucial you take steps to avoid it. 

Here are some tips to help you out: 

  • Hydrate before and after your workout. 
  • Track your water intake and shoot for at least half your body weight in ounces each day.  
  • Heat your water, which hydrates and keeps your insides warm during your workout. 
  • Look to fruits, veggies, and tea for hydration. 
  • Drink electrolytes to retain water. 

It’s important to be aware of the warning signs of hydration. If you start experiencing fatigue, dry mouth, dizziness, or headaches, it’s time to end your workout and hydrate. 

Choose the Right Gear 

Dressing for a winter jog or hiking excursion can be tricky. Exercising produces a lot of body heat, which can make you feel much warmer than it actually is outside. Without the proper gear, you risk overheating or developing hypothermia.

Layering is the best approach. That way you can remove clothes if you get too hot and put them back on if you get too cold. 

Your first layer should be moisture-wicking material that eliminates sweat. The outer layer should be thicker protection like fleece. Make sure you cover your ears, hands, and head in extremely cold temperatures. 

In addition to layering, choose gear that’s appropriate for the conditions and the type of exercise you’re doing. For example, if you’re jogging on ice or snow, you need shoes with ample grip and ankle support. 

Finally, don’t forget sunscreen. It’s very easy to get sunburned in the winter, especially if there’s snow on the ground.

Find Substitutions for Outdoor Workouts  

Is exercising in cold weather out of the question for you? Finding alternative workouts is an easy way to stay moving throughout the season. 

The best strategy is to hit the gym regularly. If you don’t have much gym experience, consider working with a personal trainer so you can target your fitness goals. 

Explore something different with indoor rock climbing. The trend has caught on and there’s likely a facility near you. It’s a killer exercise and helps build muscle groups you never concentrated on before. 

Finally, if you want to stay out of the cold as much as possible, home workouts may be best for you. Kettlebells, free weights, resistance bands, and a stationary bike are all great options. Just remember to set a schedule and stick to it. 

Power Through Winter 

Don’t let winter freeze you in place. Embrace the cold and stay moving all season. 

Use the tips above to get into a good routine as the cold temperatures settle in. Who knows? You may end up missing them when they’re gone. 

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