Freezing weather conditions can affect your workout in more than one way: decreased motivation and the effect temperates have on our muscles.
With freezing weather conditions comes diminished motivation to perform your normal workout routines and healthy eating habits. The days are shorter, meaning that by the time you get out of work the sky is already dark.
Weather conditions can most definitely affect your workouts, whether it’s skipping your typical outdoor run or not wanting to walk outside to get to your gym. In addition, many are ill-equipped when running outside. Although your body temperature increases during outdoor cardio, it’s important to have suitable running gear to protect your body in cold temperatures.
But when you do get out there, how is your body performing internally compared to warmer temps?
It is far more difficult for your muscles to contract in cold temperatures than warm. Temperature affects the level that oxygen is released from hemoglobin. When it’s old, oxygen is more tightly bound to hemoglobin and doesn’t release as easily, according to AZ Central. When your muscles don’t get enough oxygen, you experience more stiffness and fatigue. You can help combat this by drinking plenty of water before working out and doing warm-up exercises before undertaking a cardio workout in freezing temperatures, but it still doesn’t totally cure low muscular contraction. Gentle stretching before exercises helps improve circulation to the muscles and warm them and can allow oxygen to enter your muscles. Not warming up your muscles before working out in cold temperatures creates a higher chance of injury.
Weight gain in the winter isn’t only due to inactivity. Even if you stick with your normal workout routine, cold weather can actually inhibit results in itself. The reason being that cold weather metabolizes fat differently in the cold.
Greg McMillan, an exercise physiologist and head coach of McMillan Running, explains to Competitor.com that, in addition, “cold-weather issues such the challenge of where to send the increased blood flow with exercise — some of this blood must go to the working muscles for running, but in chilly environments, this is competing for blood shunted to the body’s center to maintain core temperature.” McMillan also says that muscles may experience more “pounding” because they are tighter and less bouncy compared to warmer temperature conditions. This can go for running, outdoor biking, or any other outdoor exercise.
Despite the fact that cardio workouts in cold weather may not be as efficient as working out in warmer temperatures, you can combat this by working out inside, significantly prepping your muscles, or by dressing appropriately for your runs. Don’t expect to hit any sort of PR during the wintertime, though.
The reason you may pack on the pounds in winter also has to do the food associated with the holiday and winter season. Winter holidays are centered around family gatherings, often involving lots of food and alcohol. Even though morale is low when it comes to dieting during the holiday season, it turns out that weight gain during the winter can be credited to science and not just our poor decisions.
“When outdoor temperatures drop, your body temperature drops, and that’s what sets up the longing for foods that will warm you quickly,” Kristin Herlocker, MS, RD, a nutrition expert with Diabetes Centers of America in Houston, tells WebMD.
Herlocker says that “feeling cold triggers a self-preservation mode that sends the body a message to heat up fast. And that message is often played out as a craving for carbohydrate-rich foods.” Sugars and starches provide the instant heat boost your body is looking for.
Starches spike blood sugar and then causes it to fall, perpetuating a vicious cycle in which we need to replace those starch and sugar cravings.
Cold temperatures are bad, but freezing temperatures are even worse for our workout and eating habits. Our body isn’t performing as efficiently as normal. Get through the freezing temps by staying hydrated, warming your body up before exercise, and eating healthful foods. Before you know it, spring will roll around, and you’ll be thankful you took care of your body during the winter months.