Winter Fitness: Safety Tips To Follow When Exercising Outdoors

November 8, 2021

Between the sub-zero temperatures, icy wind chills, and unexpected blizzards, winter weather can put a damper on any fitness lover’s routine.

But the cold season doesn’t have to bring your training to a grinding halt.

Got the motivation to train?

Then, we have the 11 tips you need for a slip-free, warm, and dry training session when you bring your workouts outdoors this winter!

Check The Temperature & Wind Chill First

The body is capable of incredible feats, including surviving outdoor workouts in freezing temperatures.

With proper layering for warmth, the body can keep blood circulating in below-zero temperatures.

Yet, extreme cold can quickly put excess strain on the heart and lungs and increase the odds of hypothermia.

Avoid training outside if the temperatures or wind chill falls below -18 degrees.

Choose Sneakers With High Traction

Every year, one million Americans suffer slip and fall injuries, with sleet, ice, and snow often to blame.

The risk climbs even higher when jogging on black-ice-prone asphalt in the dead of winter.

But a proper choice in footwear can change your winter jogs forever!

Choose sneakers with rubberized and tacky outsoles that’ll hug the snow and ice coating the trails beneath you.

Shoes with waterproof membranes and weatherized toe caps will also keep your feet dry when you step foot into the inevitable puddle.

Wear Layers & Protect The Extremities

Those hypothermia and frostbite horror stories were enough to convince you of the importance of layering.

But beyond trapping in body heat, the characteristics of each layer will determine the outlook of your workout.

Most outdoor athletes choose three layers for winter workouts:

  1. A non-cotton base layer to wick moisture and sweat away from the skin (keeps you dry)
  2. An insulated and somewhat looser mid-layer, often made of fleece or synthetic blends (keeps you warm)
  3. A water and wind-repelling outer layer acting as a “shell” (keeps you safe from the elements)

You can always remove your outer layer to cool down and prevent excess sweating as you hit the one or two-mile mark.

Dress For Warmth & Visibility

The first instinct is to wear warm clothing for long, outdoor workouts. However, for your safety, it’s just as important to dress for visibility.

For example, flurries, fog, and looming darkness may make you nearly invisible to oncoming drivers if you’re a road-runner.

Wear neon yellows, oranges, or greens. Or go one step further by strapping on an LED-lit harness to ensure motorists see you, even when visibility is low.

Apply Sunscreen To Visible Body Parts

Sunscreen is a workout staple in the hot summer months. But while the winter backdrop tends to be dimmer (UV-wise), the risk of sunburn is still there.

That’s because the sun’s rays — albeit weaker during the winter months — can reflect off icy strips and freshly fallen snow (particularly at higher altitudes).

No matter how cloudy or foggy it may be, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to all visible body parts when exercising outdoors!

Learn The Signs Of Hypothermia & Frostbite

Severe frostbite and hypothermia are rare when you dress for the elements. But the risk is always there, especially with the combination of cold and wet.

The key signs of these cold-exposure conditions include:

  • A prickly, burning, or numb sensation in the skin
  • Hardened or waxy appearance to the skin
  • Excess shivering or exhaustion
  • Cognitive effects (confusion, memory loss, inability to speak)
  • Slowed breathing and a weakened pulse
  • A core temperature below 95 degrees

If you notice any of these signs during your workout, seek medical attention immediately and try to warm up gradually.

Train In Areas You Know Well

Whether you’re running, hiking, snowshoeing, or cycling, you can never fully predict extreme winter weather or its impact on your training grounds.

The best way to remain safe is to train in areas you know well.

Choose well-marked trails known for being flat with few protruding roots, puddles, and free from unexpected drop-offs or twists.

If you enjoy new scenery, visit trails before they’re hidden under a layer of snow. The last thing you want is to splash into a puddle halfway through a run.

Hydrate Before, During, & After

It’s human instinct to gulp water when we feel overheated to cool down.

However, hydration isn’t any less critical during the winter. You still need water to produce sweat and fulfill nearly every bodily function.

Drink about 20 ounces of water in the hours leading up to your training session. Don’t forget to bring a bottle of water to rehydrate mid-workout!

Exercise With A Partner Or Group

A gentle flurry can quickly evolve into a full-blown blizzard, just like one wrong step can lead to a sprained ankle three miles into a run.

Keep yourself safe by training with a partner or a group whenever possible.

If either of you falls or loses a shoe, there’s somebody there to help. Plus, there’s a lower risk of becoming stranded or lost with others to navigate.

Begin With A Short Warm-Up

No matter the season, all workouts should begin with a dynamic warm-up, featuring exercises such as high knees, jumping jacks, and side bends.

This short burst can warm your muscles and prepare your body for the workout. It also lessens the cold “shock” once you open the front door.

Tell Others Where You’re Going

Exercise is the perfect opportunity to escape society and be alone for 30 minutes. So if you plan to tackle winter workouts alone, let others know.

Tell a friend, family member, or roommate where you’re training, and give them an idea of your route. Or connect with them on a GPS app like Life360.

Don’t forget to mention how long you’ll be gone! If you tell them you’re going for a two-mile run and don’t return after an hour, ask them to look for you.


Winter weather is no reason to call it quits on your fitness routine!

Of course, it’s not always safe to train outdoors, especially when it’s icy, or the wind chill dips below zero degrees.

Always have an alternative workout planned indoors for when Mother Nature throws a curveball.

Author Bio

BrittanyBrittany is the Assistant Property Manager at Atrio and a Senior Marketing Ambassador with Marquette Management. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations from Illinois State University and just moved to the city from the northern burbs. She enjoys exploring local restaurants and shops and taking her dog Lady for walks by the lake. Brittany has worked at four different Marquette communities and is excited to meet her new neighbors in the IMD.

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