Staying on top form means maintaining healthy movement. When it’s cold & dark, this is harder than ever, so here’s our five top tips for staying active when it’s cold.
First things first – you’re not the only one missing those early morning spin sessions. Everyone, even athletes struggle with motivation at this time of year, so stop the negative self talk! There are proven strategies that PTs and athletes use to keep active in the cold:
1. Schedule your movement as if it was a Dr’s Appointment
2. Dress for the weather
It might sound obvious but it will make a big difference. One of the biggest mistakes people make is bundling up too much and then overheating on your run. A good rule of thumb is to dress for 10 degrees warmer than it is; if it’s 10 degrees you’ll want to be dressed as if it’s 20 when you’re going – but think about where you’ll be before & after too!
Staying warm while exercising is really about staying dry, because wet clothes get very cold very quickly. The key is layering in a way that lets you manage temperature and lets sweat evaporate fast. Start with a thin base layer – not cotton – that will wick sweat away from your body quickly; natural materials like merino work brilliantly. Oh, and tuck it in, you don’t want a bare base of your back exposed to the elements!
The next layer is your insulation, which will vary depending on just how cold it is. Synthetic materials are normally best, but you can add some down insulation if it’s seriously cold! The outer layer gives wind & rain protection, but be careful – generally, the more waterproof a jacket is, the more sweat it will retain too, so only wear what’s necessary.
Last but not least – think about your extremities. When we get cold, vasodilation sucks blood to the core from our extremities, so a pair of gloves and a wooly hat or ear warmer are often all you need to feel cosy!
3. Warm up (inside!)
Before you even think about going outside, try to raise your internal body heat by doing a few stretches and even a rep or two. This is a good way to loosen up your muscles and get into the workout mindset while raising your body temperature. It gets your body prepared for the cold elements of winter.
Try Wim Hof’s breathing techniques to prepare yourself for the cold!
4. Channel your inner Scandinavian
Norway has a concept called friluftsliv, which translates roughly to “open air life.” But even hardcore Norweigians don’t always feel like it, but the strong cultural tradition of friluftsliv encourages them to just do it.
Meik Wiking, chief executive of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, has coined the phrase “outdoorphins,” and says that “when we follow people over time, we see that they are happier when outdoors.”
It’s time to become your own coach. What would you say to someone who you were trying to motivate to get out the door on a dark, cold Monday morning? Write it down word for word and set it as an alarm on your phone, or a few alarms to really remind you.
5. Buddy up
Joining a walking group/ running club or joining an online group is a great way of keeping yourself accountable, even if it’s just a few sessions a week. All the major apps offer xmas challenges that you can join, whether it’s’ the number of steps to walk over a month, distance covered or number of sessions joined – it’s a great way of giving yourself some structure and a goal to aim for.
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