Showing posts with label winter weather exercise. Show all posts
Showing posts with label winter weather exercise. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Winter Weather Fitness Solutions Part 2

As we asserted in our previous winter weather fitness article you needn't give up on your favorite outdoor exercise activities if you are an avid bicyclist, hiker, or runner. In that previous article, we focused on applying winter survival skills to your favorite outdoor sport. This time, we introduce you to exciting new technologies in winter sporting equipment and gear to keep you comfortable and safe in the worst of winter's weather.

Danger, Will Robinson!

Just as there are inherent dangers with any outdoor activity, even the best of equipment technologies cannot guarantee your safety. And running, hiking, or biking outdoors in harsh weather adds inherent risk.  While the equipment introduced in this article can increase your comfort level and reduce your injury risks during outdoor winter activities, use caution and care out there.

Without a doubt, not having the right equipment for winter outdoor exercising is a significant risk. Consider for example a Seattle coworker of mine who tried to ride his bike to work daily year-round – a goal that came to a crashing halt, literally, when he tried to keep it up without special gear in spite of snow and freezing rain, resulting in a wipe-out and a broken wrist!

Biking in snow and ice? No sweat!

Have you ever wondered if there is any equivalent to snow tires or tire chains for bikes?  Apparently some manufacturers and cycling enthusiasts thought the same thing, and took action.

Introducing snow bikes, also known as “fat” bikes, which look similar to ordinary mountain bikes, except that they have very wide forks to make room for very wide tires – four-to-five inch-wide super-fat snow tires.  The combination of the extra width of the tires, their serious tire treads, and lower inflation standards – 6 to 16 psi tire pressure – means you can giddyup and go on two wheels in up to four or five inches of snow. Don't take my word for it – see video examples of such snow bikes on snowy trails here, or even watch the thrill of downhill bicycle races on snowy glaciers here

Of course, you'll be investing a chunk of change, and a good portion of your garage space, to have a set of snow bikes for every member of your family. Fortunately, there are cheaper solutions for the do-it-yourselfer.

Here is video of one do-it-yourself solution to winter bike tire traction; installing your own studs onto a regular mountain bike tire, making it possible to navigate snow and even ice with a regular mountain bike. The video shows you exactly how to create and install bike tire studs made from screws, and see a demonstration of the screw studded bike tires in action.

Traction gear for walking, hiking, and running on ice and snow

Thanks to three new categories of gear, it's possible to get much-needed traction even when there is snow or ice under your feet:
  • Strap-on shoe traction solutions
  • Traction-providing shoes/boot modification products
  • Modern-day snowshoes
Solution #1 – Upgrade your existing footwear for snow and ice traction
Goat Head Sole Spikes and Icespike are but two companies using a screw-on approach, allowing you to transform the ordinary soles of your shoes or boots into serious ice grippers.  Both  products are made of extra hardened steel and with a screw head uniquely designed for traction. In either case, you are attaching a specialized short screw directly into the sole of your shoe. 
Solution #2 – Strap extra traction onto your shoes
The author's shoes ready
for winter with YakTrax
If you are not comfortable with the idea of modifying your shoes or boots with screw-on solutions, there are still a number of other products to help you increase traction by strapping on a traction strip to your footwear.
Popular products in this category include Kahtoola Micro Spikes, YakTrax (shown here), and Stabilicers. Each provide different levels of traction, and all of them provide the convenience of being able to put them on when you need to traction and then take them off when you are done.
Solution #3 – Float above all that white stuff
Neither of the above solutions solve for deep snow situations. For that, it's time to look at the new version of an age-old solution – snowshoes.

Mind you, these are not your great-grandfather's snowshoes. Modern snowshoes are extremely lightweight, often very easy to get on or off, and are available for different types of outdoor activities.

For example, there are nearly a dozen different snowshoe models on the market designed specifically for running. A few of the more popular models include the Kahtoola RNR 22 Snowshoe, the Crescent Moon Gold Series 12,  or the Atlas Race Speed Snowshoe. Running snowshoes have become increasingly popular as the winter sport of snowshoe racing grows in popularity.

Safety gear

With shorter days, there's a good chance that you'll be doing your outdoor exercise in the dark. If you are doing a form of exercise that puts you near traffic, consider investing in wearable lighting and reflective gear. This is especially important when the darkness is compounded with fog, rain, or snow, which limits a driver's visibility even more.
Available safety solutions worth considering include:
Runner Scott Colantonio keeping
safe with reflective/light gear
  • Wearable headlamps, designed to provide bright light in whatever direction you are looking
  • Flashing lights, designed to clip on or strap on to the back of your clothing, making you more visible to traffic, cyclists, and other pedestrians
  • Reflective gear, designed to bounce the light from auto headlamps right back at approaching cars, making it much easier for drivers to see you in inclement weather or after dark
    The are even combo-solutions, like this light-flashing reflector vest, modeled by runner Scott Colantonio of Wisconsin, who won’t let the cold of winter or the dark of night keep him from his favorite form of exercise.

    More tips for winter exercising outdoors offers a variety of useful tips on safe bike riding in through snow in winter. Also, check out this excellent guidance on how to run safely on ice using the right techniques, or get more great tips on winter biking from BicycleAnchorage .org.

    Ric Moxley
    Contributing Writer

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

    Five Tips for Winter Weather Exercise Outdoors

    It's winter – time to give up on your favorite outdoor exercise activities, right? Maybe not.  If you are an avid bicyclist, hiker, or runner, repulsed by the idea of cross training indoors because of the cold or snow, here’s good news; thanks to fascinating new technology and new sporting equipment options, there's just about no weather condition that can force you indoors.  Combine this with some good old-fashioned survivalist winter wisdom, and you can happily continue your outdoor routine in the cold and snow.

    In this first of two articles on winter weather exercising, we'll focus on tried-and-true techniques for enjoying many of your favorite outdoor sports even the worst of winter weather. In the follow-up article, will introduce you to the latest equipment and gear – new technology to help you stay warm and safe even when the weather outside is frightful.

    Common sense first

    With or without the right winter wear and winter gear, you will need to work a little harder at keeping yourself safe when the weather is wicked. Here’s some common sense advice from experienced cold-weather fitness folk.
    Tip #1 – Layer up!
    Active cyclist and runner Heather Connan of  Southern River in Western Australia likes to continue her favorite outdoor pursuits even if it's cold or wet. Step one, she says, is “a moisture-wicking base layer. Good thermal wear doesn't make you cold when it is wet.”
    Heather Conan enjoying her favorite sport in good weather

    Note that she speaks of layers. This is one of the most important tricks to exercising in the cold. You may be tempted to throw on a big heavy winter coat, but your body temperature varies greatly as you work out. Dressing in layers lets you unzip or even remove layers as you warm up or as the weather changes. advises handling the winter with a threefold approach to layers, starting with the innermost layer – also known as the base layer – making it a wicking material(often a synthetic fabric, designed to move moisture away from your skin), with a middle layer of clothing comprised of an insulating material (wool or fleece clothing works well for this), and topping it off with an outer layer designed for wind, rain, or snow protection when the weather requires it.

    Tip #2 – Cover up!

    The colder or windier it is outside, the more you need to consider protecting your skin. Canadian outdoor enthusiast Jodi Kalman of Waterloo, Ontario agrees: “Living here in the ‘great white north’ in Canada, winters can be extremely harsh! It's not just the biting cold, but also the wind chill factor.”

    Ontario's Jodi Kalman demo's layering technique

    How does Kalman fight that skin exposure risk? “I layer up and make sure that I have no exposed skin, including my face; I wear a balaclava to keep my face protected from wind and sunburn. And I wear lip balm and Vaseline to keep my skin from chapping,” she advises. Anther good skin chap prevention solution that even has health benefits for your skin and lips is to coat your exposed skin with coconut oil.

    Tip #3 – Don't fight the rain – work with it

    Many people make the mistake of trying to stay completely dry when exercising in sleet or cold rain conditions. But the majority of experienced runners and cyclists advise against trying to waterproof yourself when exercising outdoors.  “A wind jacket is a very wise investment, even more so than a waterproof rain jacket," Connan recommends. “With a rain jacket, you will still end up wet on the inside of the jacket due to sweat.”

    An overload of perspiration brought on by the sauna-like affect of a rain proof coat will make you uncomfortable at best, or even more susceptible to chill.  But with a wind-breaking jacket, “You stay warm because of the wind protection factor,” adds Connan. 

    With the right base layers, getting wet doesn't mean getting cold. The trick then is to think in terms of body temperature management as your top priority, which may prevent you from becoming dripping wet from sweat while trying to stay bone dry from rain.

    Tip #4 – protect your feet
    Unless you wear thigh-high waterproof boots – nearly impossible and even dangerous to try while running or cycling – it's best to assume that snow or slush will result in your feet getting wet. With the right protection for your feet and ankles, you'll be fine even if your feet get wet.
    • Consider investing in a pair of trail running shoes or light hiking boots that have a reputation for good drainage and for drying quickly. You'll also benefit from the extra traction that most trail shoes/boots provide.
    • Avoid cotton socks, which will stay damp and will make your feet even colder.
    • Better choices are athletic socks made of "technical fabrics," wool sport socks, or a pair of socks that combines these two materials.
    If you are dealing with less than five or six inches of snow, you may want to invest in a pair of gaiters to help keep your feet warmer and drier.  Gaiters, available from any wilderness outfitter store (check online if there isn't one near you), are a kind of fabric that holds snug to your shins/calves and drapes down over the top of your shoes. Gaiters are not only a good winter wear solution for running, walking, or hiking in snow, but useful year-round on slippery, dusty, or rocky trails to keep debris from getting inside your shoes or boots.
    Tip #5 – Be more cautious!
    If your favorite form of outdoor exercise involves navigating through streets or around traffic, stay aware at all times. Winter often causes conditions that hamper drivers' visibility, such as any kind of precipitation or darkness – the shorter days of winter may require you to exercise at dusk or night.
    Do not assume that drivers can see you. To be safe:
    • Wear bright colored or even reflective clothing.
    • Leave the MP3 player at home; let your ears listen for approaching traffic.
    • Consider alternative routes to avoid heavy traffic or roads with no sidewalks.
    Winter weather may also increase your risk of slipping and falling. To stay safe, tread lightly and move with the assumption that the ground ahead may be slippery. Take smaller steps to keep your feet under your center of gravity, and take extra precaution when turning corners.

    Exercising year-round

    To exercise outdoors in winter safely, and to keep it enjoyable, requires a little more forethought and preparation.  But with a little education and the right attitude, winter weather exercising is not only possible but fun.

    For more tips on how to dress for successful winter fitness, check out Bike Winter's how-to page.  Most of their tips are useful for doing any outdoor sport, such as treating your lenses of your glasses with gel toothpaste to prevent fogging.  And to get the scoop on the latest gear for winter fitness, key an eye out for Part Two of this article.

    Ric Moxley
    Contributing Writer