By Calvin Mabry
Why is it that settling into the winter season comes so easy? Whether you’ve spent the last six months training or you’re just getting started after a long hiatus, as soon as the days get shorter and temperatures begin to drop, excuses surface more readily. When this happens, that little voice tends to talk you “out of” more than “into” your next workout, and before you know it, it’s April and you haven’t laced up since before Thanksgiving.
While every case is different, it’s possible to conquer that sleeping bear (pun intended) inside you. With that in mind, Mary Helen Letterle, athletic trainer and Manager of Mission Sports Medicine, offers advice for conquering the winter months:
- Dress for Success – When braving cold temperatures, it is best to dress in layers. It is better to have extra layers that you can remove as you warm up rather than not enough. This is crucial to ensure that your head, torso and extremities are covered. Wool and sweat-wicking material are an ideal combination to help insulate and keep sweat away from your body. Avoid cotton, as it soaks up moisture from sweat and the elements, which can cool your body temperature drastically. Waterproof footwear and all-weather clothing are also important items. Bright-colored clothing is also important with the reduced visibility of the elements and shorter days.
- Skin Safety – You may not be on the beach in 80-degree weather, but your skin is still at risk in the harsh elements. The dry and harsh temperatures tend to dehydrate your skin. To help combat this, drink plenty of fluids. Eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day is a good place to start. Moisturizing creams and lotions can also help with the seasonal dryness. Especially in the mountains, we are still at risk for sunburn. With every 1,000 feet of elevation, UV exposure increases 8-10 percent. Snow also reflects these powerful rays back at our bodies. Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF as well as sunglasses are just as important in the winter months.
- Breathe Easy – It can often be uncomfortable when breathing in cold dry air. Air passages tend to narrow as the temperature of the air drops. This makes inhalation much more difficult. Don’t let this intimidate you and keep you from venturing outdoors. Breathing in first through your nose helps to warm and humidify the air before it gets to your lungs. Another strategy is wrapping a bandanna or scarf around your mouth, which will help keep the air you inhale moist.
- Use Your Head – Always be aware of your surroundings when you venture outdoors. Be cautious with sheets of ice prevalent on sidewalks and roads. Avoid frozen bodies of water, as usually in western North Carolina the layer of ice is too thin to support much weight. With the winter months bringing more hours of darkness, make sure you plan your activities earlier in the day. Tell a friend where you are going, what you’re doing and how long you expect to be there.
- Partner Up – Find a friend, family member or co-worker who you can pair up with for some winter workout sessions. If you have someone to exercise with, it can make the activity more enjoyable and help to hold you accountable. You don’t have to work out every day together, but you can share your workout plans and goals with them to help keep you on track. Sharing your goals with a partner can help maintain your motivation.
- Goal Setting – Set both short-term and long-term goals for yourself and reward yourself along the way. By setting SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound), you can celebrate your successes along the way. Having these goals in mind can help make your winter workouts seem a little more exciting and give them more purpose.
- Embrace the Season – Sure the winter months can be drab, dark and cold, but there is always a bright side. Finding new activities can add some excitement to your winter routine. Skating, skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and playing in the elements are all fun ways to add some joy to your life in the winter months. A snowball fight may not seem like a workout, but it gets you outside and can add some enjoyment to your day. If the weather prevents you from venturing outside, you can mix your routine up by adding in a circuit workout or discovering a new hobby.
Mary Helen Letterle, MBA, LAT, ATC, is an athletic trainer and the Manager of Mission Sports Medicine.