It can be tempting to forgo your fitness routine when the weather outside is frightful. But Kara Smith, personal trainer and group fitness coordinator at the Loyola Center for Fitness, stresses that the cold winter months are no time to abandon your workout schedule.

“It’s hard to stay motivated in the winter,” Smith acknowledges. “When temperatures plummet, the last thing we want to do is leave the comfort and warmth of our homes. But winter is not a good excuse to give up our fitness routines.”

Smith suggests taking advantage of winter outdoor activities, such as ice skating, hockey, skiing or snowshoeing, during the cold weather. You also don’t need to give up your regular outdoor walking or running routines when the temperature drops.

Just follow these tips from Valerie Walkowiak, medical fitness-integration coordinator at the Loyola Center for Fitness, to stay safe:

  • Bundle up. Wear a hat, scarf and gloves when exercising outdoors. Take special care with extremities when exposing them to the cold. The nose, ears, fingers and toes are especially vulnerable to frostbite.
  • Choose your shoes and socks wisely. Moisture is extremely dangerous when exercising in the cold, so make sure your shoes are waterproof to keep your feet dry. Also, consider wearing thermal or two pairs of socks to keep your toes warm.
  • Wear layers. Exercise will generate heat, which may make you feel too warm. Layers allow you the option of taking off piece by piece to keep you at a comfortable temperature.
  • Layer correctly. The first layer should be a synthetic material such as polypropylene to keep sweat off your skin. Avoid cotton since it stays wet and can cause your skin to get cold. The next layer should be fleece or wool for insulation. The top layer should be a waterproof, breathable material. Avoid heavy jackets that may cause you to overheat if exercising hard.
  • Stay hydrated. We might think about hydrating more in the summer months, but it’s important in winter, too. Winter is a very dry time of year, so your body needs more water even when not sweating. Dehydration causes muscle fatigue and weakness, so drink lots of water.

Winter Workout Motivations

If you need a little more incentive to get moving this winter, try these tips from Smith:

  • Think ahead to swimsuit season. Keep a pair of summer shorts in the drawer and try them on every couple weeks to make sure they still fit.
  • Find an exercise partner. Schedule a time with a friend to exercise and get together for healthy potlucks and weigh-in accountability.
  • Experiment with healthy foods. Find out what fruits and veggies are in season and discover new recipes you can share at the healthy potluck.
  • Purchase a gym membership. Most fitness centers have promotions going on in January
  • Try something new. Purchase a new fitness video you can do at home or start a new fitness activity to keep you going till spring.

“Winter doesn’t last forever,” Smith says, “so stop hibernating and get out and enjoy what each season has to offer.”