How to Exercise in Cold Weather

Image credit: Michael Nagel

It’s freezing outside, it’s freezing when you exercise. Your home gym isn’t isolated. Your gym manager doesn’t heat the gym. But that doesn’t stop you. You decided to stop making excuses not to exercise because it’s too cold.

Here’s how to exercise in cold weather. This guide is aimed at strength training & weight lifting, but you can use the tips for other sports too.

Be Confident
. Cold weather is easier than hot weather: no headaches from the heat, no sweating. The first 5 mins are the hardest. Once warmed up, you won’t feel the cold anymore. Remember this.

Warm Clothes
. Wearing a sweater adds inches to the bar, making it harder on exercises like Front Squats to put the bar correctly. I remove my sweater during worksets, and put it back on between sets.

Try also a woollen hat to avoid sinus & ear infections from the cold weather.

Warm-up Routine
. You can’t injure a warmed up muscle as easily as a cold one. Warm-up sets are a start, but you can do more than that and the 5 min cardio. Some ideas:

  • Dynamic Stretches. Leg swings & side leg swings, body-weight Squats, body-weight lunges, lateral lunges, shoulder dislocations, etc
  • Barbell Complexes. Empty barbell. 3x Hang Power Clean, 3x Front Squat, 3x Push Press, 3x Overhead Squat. Repeat for 3 to 5 sets.
  • Body-weight Exercises. Jumping Jacks or better, Burpees.

Remember: the goal is to raise your body temperature, while warming up joints & muscles. Don’t get yourself tired.

Rest Less Between Sets
. Load the bar & do your next set. This quickly gets you warmed up. If your workset is 5×5 100kg on the Squat, do this without resting:

  • 2×5 20kg
  • 5x40kg
  • 3x60kg
  • 2x80kg

Then move to 5×5 100kg taking 1 min rest between sets. If you struggle to get all reps, take 2-3 min rest & walk between sets to keep warm.

Hand Care.
Gloves don’t work for weight lifting: they add inches to the bar, making it impossible to grip the bar correctly.

  • Warm-up Your Hands. Rub your hands between sets, clap them. Your body temperature will warm-up the cold bar.
  • Hand Cream. Cold weather makes your skin dry. Dry skin gets chapped, irritated & red. Use hand cream before going to bed.

Don’t Rationalize
. Never rationalize that it’s too cold, that you’re going to get sick or whatever excuse you can find. Make a decision & stick to it.

  • Set a time to exercise
  • Eat one hour before exercising
  • Dress for the gym directly after eating
  • Prepare your gym bag
  • Review your training journal: last workout, today’s workout
  • When it’s time to exercise: get up & go to the gym

Just do it.

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