Winter Hacks to keep you exercising outside

Winter Hacks to Keep You Exercising Outside

Winter presents some huge barriers to exercising outside. But, it’s so worth the effort because nature provides the best mood enhancers with no negative side effects. Safety is the biggest concern this time of year. Falls can result in major injuries, and frostbite and hypothermia can both cause lasting damage. Fortunately there are both high-tech and low-tech ways to help you enjoy a safe and exhilarating workout outdoors. Ready to get out there? Here are our best winter hacks to keep you exercising outside.

Hack #1: Wear the Right Layers

Hack #1 wear the right layers in winter
Layer in winter with merino wool, silk or synthetics.

“There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

~ Ranulph Fiennes

Fabrics that wick moisture away from the body are key in winter. Some examples include merino wool, silk and synthetic fabrics. Avoid cotton and linen in the winter when you’re going to be sweating, these materials hold moisture and are a better choice for summer.

In general, getting wet is your enemy. If you know you’ll be breaking a sweat during your workout, bring extra dry layers. Change into them if you plan to be out in the cold for a long time.

Hack #2: Wear the Right Footwear

Hack #2 Wear the right footwear in winter
Put traction cleats on your winter boots, they’re like tire chains for your boots.

Ice is the main threat that causes falls in the winter. We’ve treated countless patients who’ve fallen on the ice with varying degrees of injuries. The one comment we hear over and over again? “I didn’t see the ice.” Ice is tricky. It hides under snow, doesn’t always look shiny, sticks around in shady areas even on warmer days, and there can be tiny patches of it amidst perfectly stable ground.

Shoes and boots with good traction are a must. Even better, put some extra traction on the soles of your boots. They make a big difference by giving you more stability and confidence to get outside on winter trails. They can be a little hard to put on and take off. If you have weak or painful hands, we suggest finding a good pair of boots designated for outdoors and leaving them on until the ice is gone.

Hack #3: Use External Heat Sources

Chemical warmers for external heat
Chemical hand, toe and body warmers are inexpensive and effective.

Some winter sports like alpine skiing involve more idle time like sitting on cold windy chairlifts or standing in lift lines. In these cases, sometimes even the best clothes can’t keep you warm. This is where external heat comes in handy. The lowest-tech and most affordable versions are disposable chemical hand, toe and body warmers.

Now there are some super high-tech battery operated electric warmers available for purchase. Heated gloves, heated boot liners, heated socks, heated vests, and even heated boot bags can all be purchased for the most cold-averse of humans.

Hack #4: Cover the Appendages

Cover appendages to avoid frostbite
My daughter, Bibi tolerating full winter gear for the first time.

Frostbite is most common on the fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. Keep all of these appendages covered and warm. Neck warmers, scarves, goggles, headbands, hats, mittens or gloves and warm socks and boots are all essential in winter. If those aren’t enough to keep you warm, see Hack #3.

Hack #5: Get Above the Inversion

Inversion in the Treasure Valley, viewed from Bogus Basin
View of the inversion from Bogus Basin.
Photo credit: Tom Hamilton / Sightline Photography

We live and play in and around Boise, Idaho and the Treasure Valley has a notorious inversion season that is most noticeable in winter. Due to the shape of our valley, cold air gets trapped under a thick layer of dense fog mixed with smog. Temperatures under this layer can be several degrees cooler.

Amazingly, if you can get above it, it’s much warmer, can be sunny and can feel downright balmy!

Hack #6: Respect Mother Nature

Respect Mother Nature in Winter
Wind, blizzards and low visibility conditions need to be respected.

Wind, blizzards and low visibility are the least safe conditions in winter. If it’s windy, whichever activity you choose will feel much colder. Plan to shorten the duration of your excursion when it’s windy out. Low visibility conditions can result in disorientation, getting lost, or not seeing variations on the trails which can lead to injuries.

Resource Links near Boise, Idaho

Whenever you’re planning a winter excursion, it’s good to plan ahead. Check the weather, snow reports, trail conditions and avalanche reports before you head out.

National Weather Service – Boise Idaho

Ridge to Rivers Winter Trail Use – this link describes the importance of winter trail etiquette and links to trails that are most likely good bets or ones to avoid in winter.

Ridge to Rivers Facebook Page – they post Trail Reports most days – follow their page and check before heading into the foothills!

Bogus Basin Conditions and Webcam

Avalanche Reports – click the area where you plan to go in the back country and follow the link to the full report

Dreaming of the hot summer? Read Summer Hacks to Keep You Exercising Outside