Most of those who exercise outdoors look forward to winter, but when the temperature drops steeply, it does become hard to work out in a park or an open space. Here are some tips on how to optimize exercise and sports outdoors in winter:

On a foggy day

Running in Delhi in winter can be a surreal experience. The fog can be so dense at times that visibility is restricted to a couple of feet. So safety should be of the utmost importance—wear a fluorescent T-shirt or jacket, caps and gloves. Invest in a running headlamp. The headlamp should be facing forwards for you to see your path. Both your arms should also have blinkers in case you are running on the road to allow drivers to see you. Also, it is always advisable to be on the wrong side of traffic so you can watch the vehicles rather than being at the mercy of the person behind the wheel.

 Fog in cities like Delhi is a result of pollution too. This can be tricky for people with asthma—this is a season when they should avoid exercising outside.

Dressing up

There is a tendency in almost all of us to either over-dress or under-dress for winter. Sweat is your biggest enemy in winter. It will wet your base clothing layer and once this happens, falling sick is the next step. Your base layer should not be of cotton, but always of Dri-Fit material. The same applies to your underwear. In addition, always carry a change of clothes. Once you finish the sport or a workout session, get into dry clothes.

It is more important to wear layers rather than one thick jacket. As you start moving, you warm up and soon enough the thick jacket will feel a bit too much and you are likely to remove it. If you wear multiple layers, you can take off a layer if it feels too warm. It is worthwhile to cover your ears and hands.

It is a good idea to apply a decent amount of Vaseline or body lotion all over your body before stepping out as it will form a layer that will prevent you from getting cold.

Breathe right

We all tend to stop breathing naturally when it is cold. Along with this we shrug our shoulders up and pull them forward, bending the torso forward a bit. It almost seems as if we are hugging ourselves. All these postural changes restrict the space available for your lungs to expand. Your breathing becomes even shallower.

The solution is to take long, deep breaths in over 3-4 seconds, hold for 2-3 seconds, and breathe out over 3-4 seconds. Repeat this for 3-5 minutes before you start doing the exercise or sport of your choice. To do this, you will have to expand your chest to its maximum. Also, you can do this best when you are standing upright. This will help you improve your starting posture instantly and maintain it for far longer. It will also help you to acclimatize to colder weather. When the colder air goes into your system, you are almost telling your body that it is fine, it’s not that cold. It helps you to adapt better and sooner to cold.

Staying hydrated

People don’t feel as thirsty while exercising in winter, but you can be dehydrated in the cold as well. It’s important to keep taking sips of cold water every 2km or so. This will help you keep your mouth and throat moist and prevent

dehydration. Also, people who exercise take shallow breaths in winter, and get breathless sooner. If the mouth is moist, it stops the airway and lungs from getting dry.

Moving indoors

Most outdoor enthusiasts hate exercising indoors. But this move can be a blessing in disguise. Even if you move two sessions a week indoors you will find it helps you perform better at your sport and prevent injuries. New workouts in gyms give a variety to your workouts and work muscle groups that were not addressed otherwise. Again, this will help in performing better in the chosen sport or exercise.

Running on the treadmill may not sound very interesting to runners who love to be on the track or on the road, but running on it twice a week could help you to have a training session which is customized. You can easily assess what you are doing and improve on it session to session. That’s hard to do when you run outdoors.

Also, remember that the social setting of a gym adds a different element to the fun of being active. For some, it comes naturally—others might need to work on this.

Rajat Chauhan is an ultra marathon runner and a doctor specializing in sports and exercise medicine and musculoskeletal medicine, and founder of Back 2 Fitness. He is also associate editor, British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Write to Rajat at treadmill@livemint.com

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