Taking a day off doesn’t come easy to most athletes. Telling them they can’t get a workout in, especially if they are in training, can be as difficult as telling them not to move all day. However, in extreme weather like what the deep freeze going through the Midwest getting outside can not only be detrimental to long term goals, but down right deadly.
Like the extreme heat, everyone can handle different levels of cold weather. Dr. Balu Natarajan, an internal and sports medicine physician at The Running Institute said that most of the preparation comes in training, but in weather as cold as Chicagoland is experiencing it would take a high level of experience to be fully prepared and experience in arctic-like weather. “We can’t make a blanket statement to say it’s impossible,” Dr. Natarajan said of training outside. “But you absolutely have to prepare for a long time to be ready for it.”
When the temperature does return to a more appropriate level it is still important to remain careful in the cold. Runners who spend most of their year running and training outside should be more prepared to run in the winter. For those who normally jump on the treadmill once winter hits, Dr. Natarajan advises to stay with that routine. Those that do go outside should pay close attention to certain key clues that will keep them safe. When going outside, runners need to both protect against the cold weather and the exposure to wetness. The best way to help fight both problems can be proper layering.
The biggest problems come in the form of frostbite, asthma or bronchitis. Frostbite can cause numbness or tingling in the extremities as well as a change in skin color. If an athlete has any difficulty breathing they should return indoors to avoid an asthma attack or bronchitis. Another problem arises with cyclists or runners who bring their own fluids with them. Often, in extreme cold weather water bottles will shatter or water will freeze.
The best advice for anyone who may be worried about their health is to just stay inside. Although for many a treadmill or stationary bike isn’t ideal, it may be the best for the situation. Dr. Natarajan said to find something as similar to what someone would do outside and bring it inside to keep on a training plan.