Exercising in winter

Now you've shaken off that New Year's Eve hangover you might be raring to go with your resolution to get in shape for 2012 - but hold on just a second and read this first!

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It might be a bit dark and chilly out at this time of year, but you don't necessarily have to head straight for your nearest gym to start burning off those Christmas calories.

It can be cheaper and more rewarding to work out in the great outdoors instead - and you can stay just as comfortable as in summer if you follow a few simple guidelines.

Layer up
Don't just wear a cotton T-shirt and a thick coat, you'll boil up in no time. Instead go for two or three layers made from breathable fabrics such as a technical polyester or merino wool baselayer and/or midlayer and a soft shell or waterproof jacket.

Compression tops are all the rage, but have very little warmth so definitely take three layers if wearing one of those.

A good general guide for high-output activities such as running or biking is that if you feel slightly chilly when you step outside you will quickly warm up to a comfortable temperature.

For lower-output activities like walking it's important to keep your core warm, along with your extremities.

Warm up
It's important to warm up your muscles before any work out session, but especially so in cold weather when muscles are tighter and it is easier to pick up a sprain or strain.

Once you've done your warm-up exercises, it might be a good idea to gradually increase your pace rather than go off like a rabbit out of the traps.

The NHS website advises warming up for about 10 minutes.

Light up
There have been fantastic advances in portable LED lighting over the last five years or so, and it's now possible to see almost as clearly as in daytime if you are running or riding after dark.

Also, make sure you have reflective trim on garments if out amidst traffic in the dark.

Other clothing
Quick drying synthetic legwear is the order of the day when running or biking in wet conditions, with waterproof footwear if possible.

Hats with ear flaps can add a lot to your general comfort if there's a bitter wind and cyclists often wear tubular "buffs" or caps under their helmets to cover their ears and heads.

Wool socks can make a huge difference to the comfort of your feet, either traditional thick wool or thinner merino will keep your tootsies toasty and stay warm even when wet. Don't wear too-tight footwear though, this can make your feet cold.

Watch your step
The bikers in the picture above clearly know what they're doing, but take extra care if you're running or riding in the snow and ice if you're less experienced. Be sure to plant your feet firmly or aim your wheels squarely at obstacles and try to stay loose in order to adapt to any unplanned slips.

Runners often wear grippier footwear in the winter months and cyclists fit winter-specific tyres whether they ride on or off road.

Enjoy the benefits
Sometimes it can look a bit grim when you're nice and cosy indoors, but you'll rarely regret going out afterwards - and it's important to keep sight of why you are doing it.

Keeping up your exercise regime throughout the winter months will give you more energy, a more cheerful disposition and of course you'll be shedding the pounds and getting fitter and stronger in time for summer.

Now what are you waiting for?

What do you reckon? Indoor or outdoor exercise for you in winter? Comment below...
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