Winter is finally here and fitness aficionados can indulge in their favourite physical activity without having to bother about heat exhaustion, excessive sweating and dehydration. Those of us who run or cycle outdoors have noticed that increasing pace per kilometer is lot easier while the others who like to huff and puff under a heavy bar find that strength tends to increase in the winter months.
But is it all roses and rainbows in the winter for the gym enthusiasts, or should they be watching out for some hidden pit falls?
The pros of working out in cold weather
•Low temperature makes it easy to pick up the pace – whether you run/cycle or lift weights. Cold tends to invigorate people and you would generally feel lot less tired even while working at a faster pace.
•Lot less sweating and thus lesser water loss during exercise. Though it is a good idea to keep sipping water while working out, chances of dehydration and concomitant heat exhaustion are minimal during the winter months.
•Most people have no problems upping their food intake during the colder months, as the body needs more fuel to maintain normal body temperature. Eating loads of food leads to topping the glycogen stores in the cells and thus strength tends to go up. More food, more weight lifted means muscle gain, which is always a good thing.
•Traditionally, winter months are considered an ideal time to gain muscle since you can easily cover up some increase in body fat percentage by wearing heavy winter clothing. Nobody needs to bother about a six-pack while you are swaddled with sweaters and coats. This is actually a good thing because come spring/summer, you diet the excess fat off while the muscle would still be there. Before any of the ladies reading this get alarmed, that muscle gain would not make you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
•For the endurance-minded, the winter months are a great time to build an aerobic base. Work on increasing your weekly mileage. Focus on long easy pace runs/rides. Avoid doing the fast intervals, leave those for the pre race season.
The cons of working out in cold weather
•The quality of air might have a deleterious effect on the health of those exercising outdoors. During winter months, the general air quality tends to decrease as pollution increases. This could make runners and cyclists prone to respiratory issues.
•Sweating might be less in the winter but exercisers should still drink enough water. Sweating might decrease but urination increases, so to make up for water loss do not leave your water bottle behind.
•Warm-ups have to be longer. Raising core temperature, increasing joint lubrication all take lot longer in the cold environment. Without a proper warm-up, chances of getting injured or having a sub-standard training session are lot higher during the winter months. So, set aside 15 minutes for your warm up. For people short on time, this can be quite a bummer because an elaborate warm-up can eat into the training time.
•People with hypertension, cardio-vascular issues need to be careful while exerting in the winter months as blood pressure tends to increase with the cold. They should speak to their doctors before starting a training programme during these months.
There you got the good points and not so good points of training in the cold weather. But hey, the winter is here, leave the thinking for some other day. Time to load up the bar and get busy in the gym or lace up your running shoes and hit the roads. Make the most of the lack of heat to set some personal records and may be knock off some fitness goals. Let me know how it goes….
Kamal Singh is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has been coaching for 15 years
From HT Brunch, December 27, 2020
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