Avoid Winter Walking Woes
Simple Tips to Make Frosty Walks More Comfy & Doable
During deep winter freezes, walking remains one of the best ways to work out, but as temps drop, so does our habit of accruing steps outdoors. This need not be. With some specific considerations, we can keep walking outside in winter and find it pretty darn pleasant. Beyond enjoyable, walking will not only lock in fitness but boost mood to boot. If you’re like me, both of these benefits make plowing through “hibernation season” much more doable.
Take the following tips under consideration to make winter walks safer, more comfy, and in turn, more achievable.
Fine tune footwear choices.
This seems like a no brainer. Snowy sidewalks & paths? Wear boots. Donning traditional winter footwear, however, may not actually provide the best support, protection and fit. I swap into hiking boots, which are worn perfectly to my cute, flat feet; waterproof; thick-treaded; roomy enough for wool socks; and tricked out with my favorite, store-bought arch inserts. Strapping ice cleats to regular boots can make trails much more manageable, too, though these can go clackety clack on clear sidewalks, throwing off gait a bit. Whatever you pull onto your feet, choose the option that will best support your tootsies and help you to avoid slips.
Adjust workout wear, too.
Of course, we all “bundle up” when braving a winter trek, but how we do so can lead to either suffocating toastiness or teeth chattering chill. In fact, dressed too heavily, a person can experience both and in, extreme situations, even hypothermia from sweat, which conducts cold way faster than dry skin does. Dressed too lightly, and of course, you could also be risking the same. Yes, I’m going to say it: Dress in layers. This way, you can carry the puffy jacket and remain cozy nonetheless. Avoid cotton clothing and opt for moisture wicking wool and synthetics.
Perhaps the most effective way to avoid falls is to add balance training to your workouts. More than one client over the years has told me that their sharpened sense of balance saved them from a serious fall. Even simple moves, like standing on one foot at your kitchen sink, make a difference. Aim for 30 seconds a foot. If you become more ambitious, try different positions (like yoga’s “tree pose”) and challenge yourself by moving arms as well.
Warm up indoors first.
We all know that cold muscles are more likely to pull and strain, but few of us (myself included) warm up inside before venturing outside. This makes a big difference, though, instilling muscles, tendons, and ligaments with a little more pliability before they’re blasted with cold. (Just be careful not to build up a sweat before heading out, since as mentioned above, this can actually make you colder.)
Hydrate—inside & out.
It always seems counterintuitive to me that we become just as dehydrated during winter as summer—until my skin crackles and my thirst rears up. Drink water before and after walks, or even carry a warm thermos of tea along. (Plan bathroom breaks ahead of time!) Also protect lips with balm and exposed skin with creamy lotion. Personally, I’m one of those folks who periodically sleeps with Vaseline slathered on hands and feet, wearing socks on all four appendages! (I feel like a stuffed animal, but it sure works.)
Select from the forecast.
As we all know, it’s SO easy to skip winter walks. Even one or two a week, along with other workouts, benefits health, so consider planning ahead. Check the forecast for the balmiest days that match your availability and punch them into that calendar. They may just be the most enjoyable workouts of the week.
Share your route.
This is pulled directly from the hiker’s rule book, but in winter, it’s as important to walkers: When you head out, mention your route and departure time to a buddy. If you do the same thing most days, you’ll probably get away with slipping out silently, assuming your partner knows your diehard drill. Otherwise, say something. It may sound dramatic, but falls happen fast. Personally, I have a harrowing memory of a neighbor who slipped in front of our home; she hurt herself badly and had to struggle to get to our door. Your plans are worth a mention.
Bonus: Walk indoors (too obvious?)
Of course, when we have access to an indoor track or treadmill, we have no excuse but to keep on stepping. If not, another really great indoor option is to walk along with some of the fun workouts on YouTube. These tend to be more like simple aerobic classes from yesteryear, but if you count daily steps, they add up quickly this way.
Believe it or not, we will eventually chat about springtime walks and hikes again. In the meantime, I hope these little tips help you make the most of some lovely winter walks.