Some tips to make sure you are prepared for exercising outdoors in the cold

HIKING THE RIBBON TRAIL IS A LOT DIFFERENT IN THE WINTER than in the summer months. If you are going to be outside recreating this winter, make sure you have the proper clothing and understand the risks associated with whatever activity you pursue.

It’s coming and there’s no way to stop it.

The cold and snow will inevitably bull its way into Western Colorado. When that time comes, some pack up their things and hibernate for the winter. For most enthusiasts, however, the winter provides new opportunities to exercise in the cold.

There are certain precautions that need to be taken into consideration if you are one of those who likes to exercise outside — whether that’s running laps at Stocker Stadium or cross-country skiing on Grand Mesa.

Dr. Michael Reeder, a sports physician at Rocky Mountain Orthopaedics Associates, says there are things that come with exercising in cold weather that aren’t problems in the summer.

Here are things to consider before exercising in the cold:

proper clothing

When outside for an extended period of time, it is important to find the right, and correct, amount of clothing to wear. Wear not enough and you run the risk of conditions like frostbite. Wear too much and you can sweat too much increasing susceptibility to hypothermia.

“You want clothes that will release heat. Because if you start to sweat, that can decrease your heat because water is a great way to lose heat,” Reeder said. “Also, if your clothes get wet, you can get yourself into trouble. You want clothes that won’t stay sopping wet like cotton does.”

Reeder added you lose heat four times faster when exposed to water.

Protecting our head and neck are also important because a significant amount of heat can be lost if the head, ears and face aren’t covered.

“We have to be especially careful to cover our fingers, nose, ears and toes because they are the most vulnerable to frostbite,” Reeder said.

winter injuries

As fun as skiing and other outdoor activities in Colorado can be, they can also cause a lot of trouble.

One thing that can be forgotten when up at high elevation is sunscreen, which on a bright, sunny day can save you a lot of pain.

“Just because it is cold doesn’t mean you can’t get a sunburn,” Reeder said. “Especially at 10,000 feet when there is not a cloud in the sky.”

Sunglasses or goggles also help protect the eyes from the glare of the snow.

Frostbite is one of the more serious injuries brought on by the cold weather and occurs when the flesh

“Frostbite indicates you have some kind of tissue damage. It’s where people have that feeling where their foot starts to feel like a piece of wood,” Reeder said. “And it actually can be quite painless until it starts to get warm.”

Existing conditions can also be affected by the cold weather.

“It is important for people with asthma or chronic bronchitis to be very careful (when) exercising in the cold,” Reeder said. “Cold (air) can be a significant trigger for those with exercise-induced asthma and they need to prepare for that by having their inhaler, as well as a mask or scarf to warm cold air before breathing it in.”

water intake

Just because you aren’t as thirsty or sweating as much doesn’t mean fluid isn’t being lost.

“That is a big problem with the cold because when it’s hot, you sweat and understand that you need to replace your fluids,” Reeder said. “You are not sweating as much, but you still are losing fluids the same as if you were exercising in the summer time.”

Reeder added hydrating beforehand helps a lot and you should also be hydrating during activities no matter what a your thirst mechanism is telling you.


As with any outdoor activity, understanding the situation is important. Whether you are simply jogging around town and do some extra stretching or you are cross-country skiing and are prepared for a change in weather.

“Preparation is key,” Reeder said. “We cross-country ski and we were way in the back and it started to snow and I couldn’t see the trail. If you went off of it, you were in five inches of soft snow so I can understand how someone can get lost. Preparation is important.”


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