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Tips for Winter Workouts: What to Wear, How to Warm Up and More

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Man and woman jogging outside in winter

Winter weather—with cold temperatures, chilly winds, sleet, snow and ice—can disrupt your outdoor workouts. It is important to consider how the cold weather affects your workout performance, duration and intensity.

What should I do before heading outside to exercise?
Start off with checking the weather forecast to see what the temperature and wind chill is for your workout time. Both of these weather elements are major factors in how you should prepare for your workout.

Chilly, high-speed winds can affect how you take in oxygen and your overall body temperature. Your body radiates heat to keep you warm, but if the wind penetrates through your clothing, your body will become chilled. If you are an outside runner, you likely understand the difference between exercising in 30 degree weather without wind and working out in 30 degree weather with a faster wind speed and low wind chill. It is imperative to dress differently to protect your body from the cooling effects of harsher weather.

What is proper attire for cold weather workouts?
Everyone handles cold weather differently. Your neighbor may be able to run in shorts and a long-sleeve shirt in cooler weather, but you may feel more comfortable in tights, a base layer and a jacket. You can determine your personal comfort zone by trial and error as you dress yourself for outdoor, winter workouts.

If you are unsure how to dress, begin with warm, light layers. When you wear layers, it enables you to peel off clothing if you get hot during your workout. The key is to also wear layers that complement each other.

Begin with a base layer that has heat-regulating properties, along with a moisture wick fabric that absorbs moisture from your skin. Once you have a solid base layer, ensure your additional layers are light, but have protective, breathable weaves to protect your body against harsh weather.

While selecting workout gear, avoid bulky fabrics, such as fleece, that allow an abundance of sweat to build up within the weave of the fabrics. This can cause you to become more chilled and affect your performance. Over time, you will learn what works best with your body.

How should I warm up?
When you start a car in the winter time, you want to ensure all of its components are warmed up before you take off. Your body works in the same way. In cold temperatures, your muscles and joints can become tight, so you need to warm up to increase elasticity throughout your muscles, leading to a more resilient body. It is essential to warm up your body before you begin your workout to prevent injury from tight muscles.

If you typically spend five minutes warming up in mild weather, lengthen your time to 10 minutes in cold weather. You want to be sure your body is ready to go for your workout. Also, incorporate full-body, active stretches to ignite your muscles and joints. Passive stretching, where you hold a position for an extended period of time, can disengage and over-stretch your muscles. Watch a video to learn how to properly stretch your muscles before your workout.

Is there anything else I should consider?
Whenever you are training, imagine yourself as your body’s system analyst. Listen to your body’s signals and respond accordingly. If your muscles feel tight, do not push yourself past your comfort level. Focus on adjusting those stressors and find more efficient ways to warm up your muscles.

Follow these tips to make the most of your cold weather workout.

For more information about professional fitness training at Cooper Fitness Center, visit or call 972.233.4832.

Article provided by Christian Mazur, Professional Fitness Trainer at Cooper Fitness Center.