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NEWS | Dec. 14, 2011

Cold weather workout? No problem

By 628th Air Base Wing Safety Office

As you adjust to darker days, colder temperatures and slippery surfaces, it's important to be mindful of safety issues that come with winter. A change in weather should bring a change to your mindset. When temperatures get colder, it's important for athletes to adjust their routines," says Tony Breitbach, Ph.D., director of athletic training education at Saint Louis University. "You need to have a winter sports strategy."

Breitbach offers the following five tips to avoid injury when participating in sports during winter months:

1. Watch what you wear:

Dress in layers for outside exercise. The layer closest to your skin should be made of breathable wicking material, avoiding cotton which retains sweat. Next, add a thermal layer of fleece or cotton to keep in heat and use a third, outer layer as a cover. As you start to warm up you'll be able to peel off layers to manage your comfort level.

The furthest extremities are the first to be affected by the cold, so watch for pain or tingling in the ears, fingers or toes as a signal that it's time to go inside to warm up.

2. Watch what you eat and drink

For many, the holidays bring temptations in the form of rich foods, holiday drinks and sugary desserts. If you over-indulge, you'll need to step up your workout just to maintain your current level of fitness. Staying well-hydrated is another concern during cold winter months because of dry air and indoor heat. Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol-based beverages which also lead to dehydration.

3. Watch for hazards

Use caution when running after dark by wearing light-colored, reflective clothing so drivers can see you.

4. Watch out for overuse

Because there are fewer exercise opportunities in winter, be careful to avoid over-doing it with one activity. Activities like running in the park, golfing and swimming may not be options in the winter; instead, you may find yourself working out on hard, unforgiving surfaces like gym floors or concrete, which can exacerbate over-use issues.

5. Watch out for injuries

Different activities require different shoes. Summer running shoes don't work well on the basketball court. Be sure to switch to shoes with good traction to help avoid collisions and avoid ankle injuries.

Also remember to wear Personal Protective Equipment, warm up appropriately, and don't exceed your limits and boundaries.