Many people are waiting for spring so they can start or re-start an outdoor walking exercise routine. But I actually enjoy getting out and walking for exercise during the colder months. I like the sound of crunching snow, the brilliant blue skies and the absence of bugs.
In case you have cabin fever and don’t want to wait another month or two for warmer temperatures, here are some tips that might make winter walking more enjoyable.
Dress in layers
It’s common to dress too warmly for outdoor activities. Layering is key. Start with three or four layers. Layering allows you to control your body temperature. Without the ability to shed layers, overheating and sweating will result in damp clothing and feeling chilled as the moisture next to your body cools down.
The first layer of clothing next to your body should be something thin and moisture wicking. Avoid wearing cotton or cotton blends, which tend to stay damp. For increased comfort and warmth, wear long underwear made of synthetic materials, such as polypropylene—it wicks moisture away from the body and is fast drying.
The next layer can be fleece, cotton or wool.
The outer layer could be a breathable rain jacket or a light down jacket. A heavy down jacket will cause you to overheat. If you walk near traffic, the brighter your jacket color, the better. You could also wear a reflective vest on top of everything.
Flannel-lined or fleece-lined denim jeans are a popular choice for winter walking. If it is particularly windy, breathable rain pants work well, too.
Walk with confidence
The fear of slipping on snow or ice can discourage walkers from venturing out. Consider using walking poles. They are similar to ski poles and help you maintain balance. They also help develop and maintain upper-body strength. Most walking poles come with two sets of tips: rubber for summer months, and metal for hiking on snow and ice.
Try adding a pair of studded grip slipovers over your boots or shoes for added traction and confidence on slippery surfaces.
Heavy boots are not ideal. The excess weight can wear you out and may affect your sense of balance. Hiking shoes or boots that repel rain and snow might be a better choice. Consider wearing a pair that is a half size bigger in order to accommodate thicker socks, but don’t layer socks so thickly that your feet overheat. Double-layered socks are a good choice, especially if your feet are prone to blistering. Always choose socks that are moisture wicking.
Cover your head and hands
Choose a hat that covers your ears because of their increased susceptibility to frostbite. I like a hat with a brim and fold-down earmuffs. Protect your eyes from snow glare with sunglasses. Anyone who takes on the challenge of below-zero temps should consider wearing a balaclava—a cap that covers the cheeks, nose and neck.
Mittens tend to keep fingers warmer than gloves. If you walk with poles, your palms may get sweaty, so choose something that breathes well but blocks the wind.
Finally, don’t forget your water bottle. Dry winter air is dehydrating, and public outdoor water fountains are usually turned off during winter months.
An investment in the proper winter gear can open up many possibilities for enjoying winter weather. And winter’s snowy mantle can give you a whole new perspective on your favorite walking routes. Enjoy!
By Margaret Hemauer, ACC, MA, NHA
Quality/Performance Improvement Consultant