Winterize Your Workout

By Kathryn M. D’Imperio

The toughest part of running – or working out in general – is getting that first foot in motion. Whether you choose to run, walk, or participate in any number of strength training or other exercises, some days the motivation just isn’t there. As the temperatures continue to drop, exercising outside becomes more challenging, and for most, a bit uninviting. It pays to remember one thing: Getting over that mental barrier is often the hardest part.

“The big challenge for a lot of people this time of year is first the cold, and then the shorter days and trying to find time to exercise while it’s still light, or being properly equipped when the light is gone,” says Bruce Haines, owner of Aardvark Sports Shop on Main Street in Bethlehem.

Haines believes he is like most people when it comes to running and working out. He runs to keep his sanity, clearing his mind as his feet hit the ground. He runs because it allows him to enjoy food without gaining weight. He runs to be social, joining friends in races here and there. (including 10 mile runs and a half marathon this past year), but not to break records or win awards. He runs because it makes him feel good and keeps him healthy and fit.

Haines purchased the Aardvark Sports Shop from his father, an accomplished runner, in 1998 and has helped to outfit runners and other athletes for all seasons. Specialty running stores, such as Aardvark and The Finish Line in Emmaus, offer a vast selection of athletic footwear, apparel, and accessories, including winter gear and clothing for those looking to exercise or cross train even during the coldest, snowiest months of the year. From reflective gear and blinking light accessories to unobtrusive rubberized tread (“Get a Grip”) for running in less than ideal conditions, running shops keep casual and competitive athletes comfortable and protected no matter what the weather.

Still, equipment isn’t the only worry in workouts this time of year. Many people just don’t jump at the chance to exercise in the cold, and each person faces a different level of commitment and motivation that impacts their workout routine or lack thereof.

“A lot of people have success organizing runs with friends or coworkers instead of trying to go solo,” Haines says. “It’s a little harder to disappoint someone else than just to disappoint yourself. In other terms, register for an event that happens in the early spring so you have a mental commitment to prepare for. There are a number of events that fit the bill, like the St. Luke’s half marathon at the end of April. You can’t just start when the weather gets nice and be ready in a few weeks; you have to work through
the winter.”

Winter Workout Tips

Comfort and motivation probably play the strongest role in winter workouts. Without both of these factors working in your favor, most people would be lucky to run a block, let alone miles at a time. “The biggest thing is making sure you have the proper type of apparel, moisture transfer materials base layers, things of that nature to manage your comfort,” Haines advises. “A cotton sweatshirt chills much easier. Also make sure your head and hands are covered; you lose a lot of heat through your head and hands. Make sure you have enough visibility wear for safety.” Consider these additional tips to improve your winter motivation, performance, and safety when exercising outside:


If running with music, keep the volume low enough that you can hear what’s happening around you rather than blasting the music so you are “in the zone.”


Dressing so you are just a bit chilled at the start of your workout (but comfortable by the second mile) can be beneficial. Hats or ear warmers and gloves may improve the chilliest conditions, and while sneakers and running shoes tend to work for all seasons, warm merino socks can offset the lightweight, airy mesh uppers common to many athletic shoes. The key is to be comfortable and wearing as little in terms of bulk as possible. Lightweight materials are great at moisture transfer and they keep you warm. If you overdress, you run into trouble – you overheat, sweat doesn’t evaporate and then you chill.

Evening workouts

When running or walking in the dark, go toward traffic so you can see what’s coming and compensate for it, if necessary. Many drivers still fuss with cell phones and radios while driving, posing a safety hazard to anyone along the side of the road. He also suggests wearing reflective clothing or accessories with blinking lights to
improve visibility.


Make plans to run with friends. Meet someone and do a quick run in the morning, give yourself no time to cancel. You can develop little tricks to get yourself out the door and your body does the rest.


Not all athletes stretch as much as they probably should, but cooler temperatures make it even more important to stretch more or start out slower to avoid injury. If you just can’t seem to break through the weather barrier, supplement your workout routine with yoga or spinning class. The cardio, stretching, and strength training aspects can positively impact your conditioning, maybe even improving your running performance once you hit the trails or roads again. Treadmills, while somewhat confining and less exhilarating, can offer an indoor running or walking alternative. Either way, the most important thing is to make the commitment to work out rather than making excuses.

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