When you’re serious about fitness and physical health, winter workouts are unfortunately a must. The cold weather and dwindling daylight hours bring their fair share of challenges – whether you’re hitting the gym or heading outdoors for a run. Whatever your preferred methods or personal goals may be, it’s important to properly prepare for physical activity during winter to ensure optimal results and steady progress. Here we share five winter workout tips to help you to make the most of your exercise routine – even in the iciest weather conditions.
Get kitted out
If you’re working out in winter, you’ll need to be appropriately dressed. Your body will burn calories and precious energy resources trying to warm up – so try to maintain as much body heat as possible via intelligent, lightweight breathable fabrics. Layer up with long-sleeved tops, fleeces and hoodies so that you can easily throw them off and tie them round your waist as your temperature increases.
Invest more time in your warm-up
An adequate pre-workout warm-up is crucial at any time of the year – but it’s especially important during winter months. Think of your body like a car – the colder it is when you start the ignition, the longer it will take to warm up and get going. Starting ‘cold’ (in every sense of the word!) can lead to injury resulting from muscle, tendon or ligament shock.
Adapt your breathing
When we breathe in cold air our bronchi, lungs and mucous membranes work much harder than in more temperate conditions. Bronchial tubes narrow, whilst mucous membranes battle to stay moist. All this extra activity within the body takes its toll on your energy levels and performance ability – and can lead to inflammation in the body. When exercising outside pay attention to your breathing – inhaling through the nose, exhaling through the mouth. This efficient technique lengthens the route air takes to the lungs, giving it more time to be heated and moistened prior to exhalation. Wearing a scarf or bandana over the mouth can also help with this – especially when taking a run or jog in frosty weather. Take extra care exercising outdoors during winter if you struggle with asthma or any other respiratory conditions.
Switch up training times
As nights creep in closer and mornings darken, our bodies adapt to fit in with the changing season. Our circadian rhythm is responsible for our reactions and energy levels throughout the day and night – largely dictated by a fine balance of hormones and natural light available. Where possible, choose to train in the morning or at lunchtime, when the sun is perfectly positioned to stimulate Vitamin D production. This is also the warmest part of the day – so it’s much more likely you’ll be motivated head out at this time. Adequate rest periods can be just as important as a workout itself, especially if you have specific gains in mind or goals you want to achieve. Circadian rhythms can also be affected by blue light emitted by smartphones, tablets, laptops and televisions – so you may want to limit your exposure a few hours before bed to ensure a healthy, restful and restorative sleep.
Support training with tailored nutrition
Your nutrition plan should change seasonally to adapt to fluctuating temperatures and the effect they can have on your body’s ability to repair and build muscle. Colder weather, rich fatty foods with little nutritional value and increased time spent indoors can impair our immune system at a time of year when we are simultaneously exposed to more bugs and viruses. Focus on seasonally available fruit and veg to maximise vitamin content, helping you to keep your body fighting fit both during exercise and recovery. Cabbage, root vegetables like sweet potato, beetroot and parsnip and fruits such as pomegranate, tangerine and pear are all packed with potent nutrients and minerals with a host of benefits pre- and post-workout.