If there is one fitness trend that I have noticed, it is that during the cooler months, as the temperature drops so does the amount of exercise we do. Whilst many Canberrans have recently noticed the first signs of the change in seasons, how can we stay motivated as the cold begins to take hold? Training in cooler climates does have some advantages, and below are some tips to help get you out of bed on those cold Canberra mornings and also to prevent cold-related injuries.
Burn More Calories
We use up more of the body’s energy when exercising in the cold. This happens for a number of reasons. Firstly our bodies, in an attempt to keep warm, will begin to shiver when exposed to cold environments. This shivering, caused by small involuntary muscle contractions, increases our energy expenditure, which means we burn our energy stores 5-6 times quicker.
Secondly, our coordination and ability to think and react are dulled in the cold, which means that most exercises will become less efficient. The up side of this is that the less efficient an exercise, the more work it will take to do and the more calories you will burn.
Burn More Fat
Repeated exposure to cold weather will eventually (in 2-3 weeks) allow our bodies to adapt. One of the effects of this adaptation is an increase in the body’s ability to use our fat stores as energy.
Tips for staying injury-free during the cooler months
As our bodies are working harder in the cold to keep everything at the right temperature, we need to lessen the intensity of exercise to keep everything at the right balance. Our blood vessels also constrict in order to keep heat in the body, which can raise blood pressure. If you have a pre-existing heart or circulation condition, or if you experience chest pain while exercising in the cold, you should discontinue immediately and see a doctor before continuing.
Eskimos used to have a saying ‘You sweat, you die’. This is probably a little dramatic for our Canberra winter conditions but the principal behind it is the same. If we have too much clothing on we increase our body temperature, which causes us to sweat. If this clothing does not have the ability to wick the moisture away from our skin, it stays locked in contact with us. As soon as we stop exercising or there is increased airflow, this moisture has a super cooling effect on our bodies, which can lead to hypothermia. Clothing should be light with moisture wicking properties, and layered so that as you warm up you can remove one layer at a time.
A lot of people tend to forget about drinking in colder environments, but our body’s still needs water to continue functioning properly. The lack of proper levels of water intake can lead to dehydration.
Motivational tips for training in cold weather
1. Pre-plan what exercise you are going to do
Look at the weather the night before and decide on what sort of exercise you are going to do. Having a plan gives you a goal. Also organising to train with a friend means that you’ll have someone relying on you to show up, and showing up is half the battle.
2. Have your clothes/equipment ready the night before
Once you have your session planned prepare for it by placing all the clothing and equipment you will need out the night before. Having everything ready to go in the morning is much more motivating than rummaging through drawers in the dark.
3. Reward yourself with a hot shower and warm drink
After your session has finished, jump straight into a warm shower. Have a warm drink such as a cup of tea. Warm drinks will not only help raise your body temperature back up but also help refuel your muscles after a workout. You can use these things as motivation to go out into the cold and train.
4. Listen to music or podcasts while training
Use music or podcasts to distract you from the cold weather. For most people the cold doesn’t bring any physically debilitating problems, it’s just mentally tough. So using something to overcome that hurdle can be just the trick to getting out there.
5. Warm up/cool down indoors
Before embarking out into the cold, start with a quick warm up of squats, push-ups, or jogging on the spot – anything that will raise your heart rate and get the blood pumping around the body. This will make the initial part of the session much easier. When you’ve finished your session, head back indoors for stretching/cool down to get out of the cold as quickly as possible.
If you live in Canberra, cold weather is inevitable. But going into hibernation for the winter (and the extra kilos that come with it) are not. Using these tips you will be able to stay motivated and exercise safely through the colder months to come.