Heat conservation should be the major goal when exercising in cold climates. Significant heat loss while exercising can be prevented by wearing the appropriate layers of waterproof and water-resistant clothing. The more layers of clothing worn between the skin and air the more insulation created for the body. Several layers of lighter clothing provide better protection than one single bulky layer.
For the layer directly against the skin, choose a lightweight synthetic material such a polypropylene. This material wicks away moisture from the body’s surface and dries quickly.
The mid layer of clothing is the insulation for the body to keep warm. This item of clothing should be a bit looser than the first layer, but for the best results it needs to remain in contact with the first layer. Mid layers commonly made from down, fleece, and polyester also help carry moisture away from the first layer to the outer layer.
The goal of the outer layer is to block wind and allow moisture to escape from the body. Typical outer layer clothing includes shells made of Gore-Tex or wind and water resistant fabrics. Once a layering plan has been established, you can control your temperature simply by removing or adding additional layers of clothing as needed.
After your core is covered, you need to properly dress your head, hands, and feet. Wear a hat, gloves, socks and shoes that accommodate your selected activity and weather conditions. Keep in mind that wind-blocking fabric is also important for hats and gloves. Proper layering will not only make you more comfortable during winter activity, but also keeps you protected from preventable injuries.
Warm up and cool down: Cold weather constricts muscles, so allow enough time for proper stretching to warm up muscles before you exercise. Cool down with stretches to keep you limber and flexible. Leg, arm and calf stretches should be held for 30 seconds each for best results.
Hydration and nutrition
Due to the dry environment usually present in cold weather, hydration is extremely important. Significant body fluid can be lost and since sweat may evaporate more quickly than in a hot environment, you may not have a clear indication of how much fluid you are actually losing. Always begin workouts properly hydrated and continue throughout activity. For long workout sessions, keep high-energy snack foods available. Energy bars and packaged fruit/nut mixes are easy to carry and make for high carbohydrate snacks
Rachel Tomlinson is a Certified Athletic Trainer with Haywood Sports Medicine of Haywood Regional Medical Center. If you have any further questions regarding winter weather gear, hydration and exercise preparation readers can contact Haywood Sports Medicine at 828.452.8077.