There’s no doubt about it: winter is approaching fast. The weather is getting colder and the nights are getting longer. This can be bad news for anyone who enjoys exercising outside, and many people let their fitness journeys fall by the wayside in the winter.
It can be harder to motivate yourself to get out for a run, walk, or cycle on cold and dark evenings. There are also some additional risks that are posed by the winter weather.
But if you want to keep up your workout regime over the next few months, there are a few easy tips you can follow to help keep you safe.
Wear appropriate clothing
Investing in the right workout gear is an essential part of staying safe while you keep fit, and this is even more important when it is cold and dark. Therefore, make sure you have weather-appropriate gear before you even think about working out outdoors in the winter.
Layers are essential here, allowing you to put on or take off items as needed. Start with a base layer such as leggings. If it’s really cold, you might even want to consider thermal garments of the type designed for snowsports. Appropriate socks, gloves, and hats are also important. And if it’s icy, make sure your shoes have plenty of grip.
Your muscles have to work harder in colder temperatures, which can mean an increase in post-workout and next-day soreness. You can counteract this by warming up for a little longer than usual and making use of recovery wear during and after your workout.
Wear high visibility garments
One of the biggest dangers of exercising in the dark is that drivers (as well as pedestrians and cyclists) cannot see you, increasing the risk of a collision. According to We Love Cycling, 45% of bike fatalities take place in dark conditions.
Bright clothes are a better choice than dark clothes on winter evenings, and high visibility items are even better. Consider a high-vis jacket, tabard, or hat. You can also accessorize with high-vis strips or wristbands.
According to one study, high-visibility strips significantly increased the safety of cyclists and runners by allowing drivers to more accurately identify people at a distance in the dark.
And if you’re cycling, don’t forget your bike lights. Not only are these proven to help keep you safe, they are a legal requirement in many areas.
Go with a friend
An easy way to stay safe during outdoor evening workouts is to team up with a friend and go together. This way, if one of you gets injured or otherwise runs into trouble, there’s someone there to make sure you get home safely.
Studies have shown that women feel particularly vulnerable when exercising outside in the dark, with 50% of female participants in one study saying they will exercise less as the days get shorter, and 79% feel unsafe exercising in the dark. Unfortunately, street harassment is still a very real problem and the likelihood increases after dark. But heading out with a friend can help you both feel safer and less vulnerable.
If you don’t have anyone in your social circle who is willing to work out with you on cold winter evenings, why not join a club? Being part of a running, walking, or cycling group can make it much safer to exercise in the dark. It’ll also make it more fun!
Plan your route carefully
Exercising outdoors in winter is no time to improvise. Instead, plan your route carefully before you head out. If you know your area well, you might just need to decide ahead of time which route you’re going to take and stick to it. If not, you can use apps such as MapMyRun to create a route before you go.
Stick to familiar areas in the dark if possible, and always stay on main roads and in other brightly lit areas.
Go in the morning if you can
Not everyone is a morning person, and it can be even harder to drag yourself out of your cozy bed on winter mornings. But if you can, shifting your workout time to the beginning of the day is a good idea in the darker months.
If you head out as the sun is rising, it will get lighter rather than darker as you exercise. As an added bonus, you’ll feel energized and accomplished for the rest of the day, which can help to stave off the winter blues or seasonal depression.