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Stay active outdoors
Four easy ways to adapt to winter exercise

01/19/17
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



 It’s tempting to let your active outdoor life go to the wayside once it becomes cold and snowy, but there are ways to make exercising outside more enjoyable.

“I think what happens is people kind of feel trapped inside all winter. They get into the habit of getting on the treadmill, or the dreadmill as I call it, but it’s a lot of fun getting fresh air outside,” said Amber Cullen Ferreira, a New Hampshire professional triathlete, physical therapist and coach. 
She and Runner’s Alley’s Jeremiah Gould offered some tips on how to brave the winter and go on with your outdoor life. 
 
Be adaptable
Even Ferreira, who’s training for an Ironman race in Texas this April, has to give in to the cold and snow — sort of. She makes small changes to her intensive workouts, like biking with fat tires in the snow instead of road bikes and running in the woods with microspikes or snowshoes specifically for runners.
It’s important to note that these activities are very different from their summer counterparts; they’ll require more energy, and thus it might be wiser to go for time, not distance. 
“Running a 5K in a pair of snowshoes is much harder than running a 5K on the road because of the extra weight and lift you need in a knee,” Gould said. 
 
Be warm
If you’re going to be doing something active outside, start with base layers that wick away moisture — i.e., synthetic clothes. 
After that, it’s about preference. Everybody has different points of cold tolerance. Ferreira said she typically adds a lightweight face mask (which she can pull down and transform into a neck warmer if it becomes too warm), hat and light jacket, ideally one with a hood for cooler days. If you’re particularly susceptible to the cold, you may want to add a layer in between for insulation.
“If you start and you’re a little bit warm, you’re overdressed,” she said. “You want to start out feeling maybe a little bit chilly — your body will produce a lot of heat.”
Gould advised sporting wool socks and one or two pairs of athletic pants or tights. Many winter runners also like trail gaiters, which cover shoes from your laces to your pant leg, protecting them from incoming snow.
Both Gould and Ferreira said normal running shoes are typically warm enough for winter running, even in the woods, but if you’re prone to cold feet, you could invest in a pair of sneakers with a light gore-tex lining or adhere duct tape to the toes of your shoes. 
 
Be safe
It’s important to plan ahead with outdoor winter activities, particularly if they’re to occur in the woods. 
“You want to take the time to have a good understanding of where you’re running, just because any activity in winter in the woods is inherently more dangerous. So make sure you know the trails very well, or you’re with somebody who’s run those trails a lot so you can have a sense of what you’re getting into when you go out there,” Gould said. 
Also important is utilizing gear that reduces the risk of winter wipeouts. Gould recommended adding traction to your shoes. One option is Yaktrax, which are minimally obtrusive and can be worn during activities that transfer from road to snow to ice, helpful for a woods excursion or just a walk battling icy and snowy sidewalks. If you’re hiking mountains, crampons are your friend. 
“If you’re looking at really aggressive climbs, microspikes are lighter than crampons but beefier than YakTrax,” Gould said. “One of my favorite things to recommend for outside running in the winter is a trail running shoe.”
The shoe already has a more aggressive tread and the ability to deal with uneven surfaces. Most trail shoes naturally contain more weather-resistant uppers. 
Because there’s little daylight in the winter, many activities might occur at night, so reflective vests and headlamps are important safety components as well, he said. 
Gould said it’s also important to remember to hydrate, which is easy to forget in the winter. Just as important are warming up, cooling down and stretching inside. 
 
Be inspired
Even if you do make all these cold-weather alterations, it can still be hard to get outside. Your best bet might be to get out with others during group events or races. Gould recommended the Winter Wild series, uphill races in which you can get up and down the mountain however you choose — sneakers, boots, skis, snowshoes, etc. Runner’s Alley shops in all locations (Portsmouth, Manchester, Concord) also host free weekly group runs.





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