The weather outside is frightful, but fitness is so delightful

“It’s cold,” and “it gets dark so early” are two of the biggest reasons people share for decreasing their exercise this time of year.  Although frigid temps and early sunsets are an unfortunate reality each year in Michigan, the good news is that we can plan in advance!  Being successful with maintaining an exercise routine is easier when you have the appropriate attire, stay safe, and have options for indoor activity.

Dress for Success

When it comes to dressing for outdoor winter activity, the number #1 tip you hear is to dress in layers.  This does not mean just throw a bunch of clothes on.  Your first layer, also known as your base layer, needs to be of a synthetic material such as a poly-blend.  This material helps pull moisture away from the body which is ideal to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  What to look for would be key words like “dry wick” or “dry weave,” then read the tag to make sure it really is made of a poly-blend.  On top of the base layer, you need an insulating layer, like a sweatshirt or fleece.  Top all the layers with something that is waterproof, but also breathable; such as a windbreaker.

Don’t forget the very important items such as gloves, hat, and a scarf, or face mask (these help warm the air before entering your lungs – very important if you have any pulmonary issues such as asthma). Typically, I start a run with gloves and hat and finish it without, tucking them into a waistband or pocket as I run.  Finally, the right socks!  Socks ALWAYS need to be made of a poly-blend to help with moisture wicking as well as blister prevention.  However, in the colder months consider placing a pair of regular socks over the top of your activity socks.  Poly-blends are great for wicking but not great for warmth.

Safety First

It does get dark earlier this time of year, so it is very important to do everything you can to stay safe.  Here are some necessary items to keep you safe and consider having with you for a “just in case” type of situation.

  1.  BE SEEN: Wear clothes that have a reflective strip on them.  Whether it is a special vest, not unlike a vest you see construction workers wear, or just a long piece of reflective tape, you need to be seen, from ALL angles.  Most athletic outfitters make their attire with reflective strips these days.
  2. ROUTE:  Make sure you have your route laid out and that your loved ones know what your route is.
  3. PHONE: Take your cell phone.  This is important if you get out there, you’re a mile away from home and either can’t make it back home or the weather has gotten too detrimental to get home safely.  Luckily, most phones have the options for GPS and apps so that your loved one can “track” you like Find My Friends.
  4. IDENTIFICATION: Enough said.  Even when exercising in the best of weather, things can happen.  Many specialty athletic stores may carry identification tags to put on your shoe but you can also find them online at a place like RoadId.
  5. WEATHER: Check the weather forecast.  I have a cut off temperature, anything below 32*F, I’ll stay indoors.  If being outdoors at 5am is already unappealing, consider how bad it is when you do go outside and it’s snowing and the sidewalks are ice-laden.  NOT safe or pleasant and a major disappointment.

Have a Plan B

The inconsistent Michigan weather leads us right into having options for indoor activity.  Say you do go out at 5am and it’s a winter-wonderland.  Do you forego your exercise for lack of better planning?  NO.  This is why it’s important to have a Plan B.  You could decide to use that treadmill in the basement, or do an exercise video.  Maybe you checked the forecast the night before and already knew you would be heading to the gym.  Have a plan well ahead of time and you will be more likely to exercise that day rather than not at all.

Once you have the tools for success and a well laid out plan, hopefully there will be no excuses.  Take advantage and try something new, you may love it!

Photo credit: Andrea Guandalini

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