Step & Spine Physical Therapy co-owner and lead physical therapist Barrett Ford says he isn’t likely to give up his outdoor workout routine due to the recent surge of cold winter weather, and neither should other active Central Oregonians. Just be sure to go into each cold-weather workout prepared, he said, and follow certain precautions.
“Preparation and knowledge are keys to safely exercising in any extreme environment, whether it’s during the height of summer or the dead of winter,” Ford said. “During this time of year, it’s important to keep in mind the four pillars of cold-weather exercise, each of which is equally important to consider: clothing, balance, hydration and common sense.”
Clothing: Ford said when planning for cold-weather running, cycling, hiking, skiing, etc., clothing considerations should take into account layering, head protection and covering the extremities. “Surprisingly, one of the biggest mistakes one can make is dressing too warm,” he said. “If you over-dress, you’ll feel warm at first, but once you start to sweat, you’ll get cold. That’s why we wear layers – so we can shed outer layers as we start warming and before we get too drenched in sweat, which cools as it evaporates.”
The inner-most layer, Ford added, should be made of synthetic microfibers that dry quickly and wick sweat away from the body. Cover your hands and feet with layered gloves and socks, as well, since circulation to these extremities will be hindered as blood flow concentrates in the core of your body. Complete your wardrobe with a hat to prevent the escape of up to 50 percent of your body’s heat.
Balance: During the winter season, Ford points out the risk of falls – and the potential for fall-related injuries – increases considerably. His advice: be prepared with proper footwear. “Even if you feel you have tremendous balance, don’t hesitate to buy yourself a pair of Yaxtrax,” he said, referring to the metal coils many runners and walkers strap onto their shoes to prevent slipping. “Just one fall can quickly alter the course of your winter.”
Hydration: This is a no-brainer when working out, yet it’s something that can be overlooked during the winter season, Ford said. “You can become just as dehydrated exercising in cold weather as you can in warm; it just may be more difficult to notice,” he said. “Be sure to drink water before, during and after your workout, even if you don’t feel thirsty.”
Common Sense: “Certainly, if it’s just unbearably cold or we’re experiencing high winds and a snow storm, keep your workout inside,” Ford added. “It’s just not worth the risk, nor is it worth the risk if you suffer from asthma, heart problems, etc. If you have a medical condition you feel may be exacerbated by putting stress on the body, check with your doctor before exercising in cold weather.”