Baby It’s Cold Outside

It’s beginning to look a lot like…freezingness.  If you are struggling with exercise motivation because of the freezing cold and worried that it’s only going to get worse, here are 8 strategies for doing your exercise in the great COLD outdoors.

1.  Suit Up.  Go to your local sporting goods store (Dick’s Sporting Goods, Niketown, REI, Sports Authority, etc) and ask them to suit you up for outdoor exercise.  You may not be wearing the appropriate gear to stay warm.  Cotton or fleece sweatshirts may be cozy inside but will not keep you warm and dry while exercising outside.  Special clothing items are made to block wind, wick away sweat and keep you warm in very cold temperatures.  Tell them what activity you will be doing and what temperatures you will be braving and they will hook you up with the appropriate gear.  Get at least 2 outfits.  Be sure to get a good hat and gloves from the sporting goods store too.  Special attachments are even available for shoes (see Yak Trax) that prevent slipping on ice.

2.  Preheat the Oven.  Do a few minutes of physical activity INSIDE before going outside to warm up.  I suggest a few minutes on indoor exercise equipment, a few pushups or planks, or other such activity that will increase your body temperature and actually make it feel too warm inside the house.  This way, going outside will feel more refreshing.  I do 10 minutes on my treadmill and then the room begins to feel warm and stuffy and I begin to crave fresh air and this has really helped me to make the transition to outside.

3.  Buddy Up.  Exercising with a buddy can put some added accountability to your outdoor workout and make braving the cold feel more like a fun adventure.

4.  Phone A Friend.  Like many people, I rarely have a buddy available to exercise with me, however, I often talk on the phone while walking/jogging outside.  With a good headset and mic this is pretty easy to do, and it keeps you in your target heart range (moderate intensity) because that intensity allows conversation.  My exercise buddy and I live several states away but we exercise together all the time!  I find this to be just as motivating as having a buddy to actually come with me.  Another nice feature is that you each can go at your own pace, and not have to struggle to keep up with each other or worry that the other is going too slow.

5.  Hand and Foot Warmers.   These are small heated inserts that go in your gloves or shoes or anywhere else you would like a little heat.  The heat lasts for several hours.  Pop these anywhere that tends to get chilly.  If you get too hot you can always toss them in a trash can you pass by.


piedmontnutrition.com6.  Break the Ice.  Sometimes going into the elements can seem much worse than it really is.  I remember once I joined a relay race and it turned out to be a really rainy weekend.  Being forced to go out in the rain made me realize that it actually wasn’t THAT bad.  At times, the rain even felt refreshing.  Battling the elements also gave us a sense of accomplishment afterwards that was much more intense than it would have been otherwise.  I challenge you to intentionally plan a workout in bad conditions just to see how it feels.  You are likely to find that you are less deterred by those conditions in the future.

7.  Shameless Bribing.  My friend Kristin @drkrisschneider tells a great story of how she bribed herself to go running in the winter with “gifts.”  She was training for the Boston Marathon which meant a lot of running in cold and snowy conditions.  To stimulate her motivation she would make a deal with herself that afterwards she could go and buy something she’s been wanting.  I’m not sure she has any money left, but she did great in the marathon!

8.  Ahhh Screw It! Get a Good Indoor Plan.  If you just can’t bear the cold outside (and I definitely don’t blame you), come up with a reliable indoor exercise plan.  What I mean by reliable is one that you can do consistently.  So for example, if your indoor plan involves a gym that is near work and is only convenient to go to 3 days per week, but you would like to work out 5 days a week, you may need a different plan.  If you are considering indoor exercise equipment, browse for good deals. I always urge people to have both an indoor and outdoor plan so that there is always a back up when one or the other falls through.

I’d love to hear your ideas for staying warm! 


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  1. mbfgmike says:

    I’m in major agreement in #4. Misery does love company.
    You’re dead on when you say once you’re out there it is never as bad as you pictured it.
    Now I need to go shopping for some new winter exercise clothes!!

  2. @michelejacoby says:

    #6 is the best advice you can take ~ PLAN to go out once in crappy conditions ~ it’s a major ego boost when you’re done ~ plus, you have no ‘excuse’ to not go out next time!!

  3. Kristin says:

    Excellent advice yet again. For the record, I didn’t bribe myself for every bad weather run, just the ones where I need the extra push! Who doesn’t appreciate gifts for running accomplishments?

  4. Boomie says:

    #6 is sooo true. Related to number 7, I sometimes do contracts when I get really bad about not being motivated enough. 🙂

  5. Erik says:

    Embrace the slop! Go out when there is a lot of crap on the ground/ trails and run in it for fun! I have a video somewhere of a .8 mile loop around a field behind our house. I had so much fin last winter running through 3-6 inches of water, snow, slush, ice and mud all on the same run!!!

  6. Susan Bakke says:

    I’ve been running and walking outdoors for many years and you either love it or dislike it..Its a matter of getting used to the elements and absolutely wearing the proper clothing. I received a North Face jacket for Christmas and wow it is warm..I guess being motivated to workout indoors or outdoors is the key!!! Great blog as always!!!

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