Robert Spatz, PT, MPA, director of physical therapy at the Harrison, N.Y. office of ONS, shared his tips on staying healthy and safe while hitting the road in the cold:
"The trick to staying warm while you’re out in the cold is to layer, but not too much," said Spatz. "Even though it’s cold outside, your body will generate enough heat to perspire, so it’s important to wear moisture wicking inner layers to help your body stay warm and dry." Then, he recommends opting for an outer layer that lets out the heat while also protecting you from the wind.
It's also important not to forget the head and extremities, Spatz cautioned. "We lose as much as 30 percent of our body heat through our hands, feet and head," he said. "A hat and running gloves or mittens are essential."
"When our bodies are cooler the muscles, tendons and ligaments are not as flexible and at greater risk for injury," said Spatz. He suggests starting with a low intensity warm-up for 6-10 minutes – walking or a light jog –so the body’s heat and blood flow makes the tissues supple.
Some runners have difficulty breathing in extremely cold weather, especially those with asthma or exercise-induced asthma. "If cold air affects your breathing, consider wearing a thin skier’s face mask or waterproof gaiter, or wrap a lightweight scarf across your mouth and nose," said Spatz. "Breathing through the nose instead of the mouth will also reduce the impact of bursts of cold air in your lungs."
Always make sure you're standing out to drivers when going for a run. "It’s best to have bright, reflective outer clothing or accessories, such as reflective wrist bands or clip on lights, to make yourself more noticeable," said Spatz.
When running in the cold, many people don't feel as thirsty as they do during warmer weather. However, it's equally important to hydrate before, during and after a workout in the cold. For runners, Spatz suggests drinking 16 ounces of water or sports drink before a run, consuming between 5 and 12 ounces of fluid every 15 – 20 minutes when on the road and another 8 ounces within 30 minutes of completion.
"Regardless of the season, you should participate in a training program that consists of strengthening and stretching to avoid the types of injuries that can plague runners," said Spatz. "This twice weekly program should include exercises for your core, hips, hamstrings and calves."
ONS has offices in Greenwich and Stamford, Connecticut and Harrison, New York.
To learn more about the services available at ONS, click here.