Keeping Warm When Icy Winds Howl
By Bill Parisi - The Record,
Bergen County, NJNow that winter is on the way, we need to prepare
for outdoor activities in the cold.
One of the first rules to keep in mind is a proper
warm-up. Cold weather makes muscles tight and therefore more vulnerable
to tears, pulls, and sprains.
Take ample time to warm up the body slowly before
engaging in any intense activity. If you take a break or cool down for more
than five minutes after your warm-up, warm up again before resuming.
Don't underestimate the importance of clothing.
You lose most of your body heat through your hands and head, so wear light
gloves and a wool hat.
Insulate by layering your clothes. The layer
closest to the skin should be made of a moisture-wicking material such as
polypropylene. Avoid cotton as a first layer, because it will remain wet.
The second layer should be made of a good
insulator such as wool or down. The outer layer should be water-
and-wind-resistant; a windbreaker jacket or pullover will do the job. You can
take it off after your body heat increases.
Some think you don't get an adequate workout in
the cold because you don't sweat as much. The truth is your body burns more
calories in the cold because core body temperature rises to keep itself warm.
Be aware of post-exercise hypothermia. This is a
result of the body reducing its production of heat while rapidly losing its
existing heat stores. This can be avoided by adding clothing or quickly seeking
a warm environment after completing your workout.
Being cardiovascularly fit provides additional
protection during exposure.
It's best to work out during the day, because it's
warmer and ice patches are more visible. If you have time to exercise outdoors
only in the evening, avoid high-traffic areas and wear reflective clothing.
If you experience cold lungs, wrap a scarf around
your face and breathe through it.
Two conditions to which you are most vulnerable
are frostbite and hypothermia. Symptoms of both are numbness of the ears, nose,
fingers, and toes. Frostbite remains confined to an affected area and should be
treated immediately. It is localized freezing of tissue, and occurs during
Hypothermia, which is more systemic, is
potentially fatal if not treated immediately. It occurs when the body's core
temperature falls below 98.6 degrees. Symptoms include severe lightheadedness
to the point of slurred speech, loss of motor skills, and fatigue. A victim may
quickly lose consciousness. Hypothermia is exacerbated by high winds and wet
These conditions are best dealt with by dressing
properly, warming up, and getting out of the cold as soon as you've had enough.
Do not expose affected areas to extreme heat. The body should be warmed up
quickly but not immediately.
Rubbing the frostbitten area or exposing it to
extreme heat can cause further damage because the body is in a susceptible
Drink a lot of water and stay hydrated. Eat
carbohydrates in the cold to quickly stoke your inner fire.
Follow these common-sense tips and your outdoor
winter activities will be safe and enjoyable.
Bill Parisi is a nationally recognized expert
on fitness, general health, and athletic performance. Parisi welcomes your
questions and comments. Write to him in care of Parisi Sports Clubs, 2-22 Banta
Place, Fair Lawn, N.J. 07410; visit his Web site at www.billparisi.com; or fax
questions to (201) 794-6009.