Top Tips for Exercising Outside in West Michigan Winters
By: Kelly Brown
In West Michigan, we are blessed with four beautiful seasons. Unfortunately, one of those seasons presents unique challenges when it comes to exercising outdoors. With many gyms limiting class sizes due to the Pandemic, there’s never been a better time to experiment with outdoor exercise during winter. Exercising outdoors is proven to benefit both physical and mental health. Don’t wait until spring to exercise outdoors again! The key to enjoying it? Layers, staying safe and mindset.
Here are our top tips for exercising in West Michigan winters.
1.) Stay Warm and Dry
When you think of exercising in winter the first thought that comes to mind is staying warm. But, the quickest way to lose body heat is by getting wet. To stay dry during your entire workout, skip activewear clothes made from cotton and opt for synthetic fibers such as polyester..,
cPrepping your outfit for an outdoor winter workout doesn’t stop at fabric choice. Picking the correct layers is critical to keeping heat close to your body. The first step is a thin synthetic fiber base layer to pull sweat away from the skin and keep you dry. For extremely cold days, add a second layer, like a fleece quarter zip, for extra warmth. Top it all off with an outer shell that is resistant to the elements (wind and water) to keep you toasty and dry. If you’re working out at night, make sure to wear reflective clothing!
When it comes time to fill out your winter exercise wardrobe, head to Lole in East Grand Rapids or TO & FRO in Ada to stock up on cute, comfortable and highly effective winter activewear.
Remove Those Layers
Now that you spent all that time creating the perfect concoction of layers to keep you warm, it’s time to take them off! Well, not immediately but as soon as you feel your body hit a baseline temperature, begin removing layers and tying them around your waist. If you start to feel cold again, pull them back on. One of the biggest mistakes when exercising outside in winter is piling on layers and keeping them on. When your body starts to sweat and warm-up, you need to remove those layers to help keep you dry and safe.
Protect Your Skin
Your skin is going to be the main part of your body exposed to the elements when exercising outdoors in winter. As much as you’ll try to cover every inch of your body, parts of your face will still be exposed and that means dry, cold air. Keeping cracked skin at bay is as simple as applying an ultra-hydrating moisturizer to your face and lips before heading outdoors. Whatever moisturizer you choose, make sure it has SPF. Even though the temperatures are cold and the sky is cloudy, the UV rays can still reach (and damage!) your skin without protection.
Check Your Footwear
Rainy days mixed with freezing temperatures create slick and dangerous sidewalks that don’t mix well with traditional tennis shoes. If the sidewalks are dry, your regular kicks will do just fine if you layer up with moisture wicking thick socks. When slippery roads are unavoidable, level up your footwear with ice spikes, available for purchase at Gazelle Sports. Just make sure you stay off pavement when running on spikes – they’re designed specifically for running on snow or ice.
You know what makes working out in cold weather easier? Being warm before you start. The hardest part about any workout is getting started. It’s 10x easier to not end your workout and run back inside seeking warmth if you take 10-15 minutes to break a sweat indoors first.
Cool Down and Change
Once you stop moving, you’re going to cool down fast – literally. No matter the weather, it’s important for your heart and muscles to take the time to do a proper cool down. Start by decreasing the intensity of your exercise 5-10 minutes before you plan to end your workout and finish with some of the same exercises you did in your warm-up.
Once you’re cooled down, remove damp clothes, which suck away warmth from your body, and change into something dry. Or, kick it up a notch by finishing with a hot shower and cup of herbal tea. The best part about working out in winter is the warm dry feeling you have afterward!
Kelly Brown is a writer, marketer and fitness instructor located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has over 10 years of experience coaching competitive gymnastics and cheerleading and has taught group fitness classes such as barre, pilates, mobility, and bootcamp. When she isn’t teaching or writing, she’s usually at a CrossFit class or hiking on a local trail.