Personal Wellness

Planning A Cold Weather Workout? Read This First

Mar 2, 2021
Last Updated May 10, 2024

If your four familiar walls have you wanting to take your sweat sessions outdoors, you’re far from alone. Whether that means hitting a nearby trail for a solo run or taking advantage of  gyms’ and studios’ creative use of outdoor space, working out in the great outdoors is a breath of fresh air.

In the warm days of spring and summer, this is a no brainer. But, what happens when temperatures start dropping and you aren’t quite ready to pack it up and head inside for the season? Well, we’ve got you covered with cold weather workout tips to help you stay warm, stay safe, and enjoy your outdoor workouts.

First things first, gear up

You want to work out outside, but you don’t want to mess around with safety. If you’re planning on moving your body in the cold – from a brisk walk to a makeshift laptop-on-the-deck setup – it’s important to dress for the part. 

Before you pile on the layers, there’s actually some science behind how you should bundle up to maximize comfort and safety. You’ll want to start with a moisture-wicking base to help your sweat evaporate outwards. Next up, if it’s really cold out there, you’ll want an insulation layerlike polar fleece to keep you cozy. The outermost layer depends on the type of weather you’ll be enduring. 

If you’re heading into wet weather, you’ll want to ensure your jacket is appropriate for that. But, exercise caution with a water-repellant outer layer. Waterproof jackets are not conducive to breathability, so you may end up trapping in some of that sweat that your first layer is working so hard to wick out. 

Warm up to warm up, seriously

If you’re a notorious warm-up-skipper, cold weather workouts are an instance where you’ll really want to fit that in. If it means setting aside an extra 10 minutes for your workout, do it. Your body will thank you.

If you’re taking a class designed specifically for the outdoors, rest assured that your instructor will do everything in their power to get you warmed up. But, if you’re adapting your workout to the outdoors on your own, that means taking ownership of your proper warm-up. Here’s one you can do in just 6 minutes. 

Consider your extremities in cold weather workouts 

In cold weather, our blood vessels constrict, leading to less blood flow to our bodies’ extremities. This means taking extra care of your hands and your feet. Even if you’re known to skip the gloves for regular winter outings, grab a pair for your winter workouts. And, if no-show socks are normally your thing, consider switching to a higher pair to leave less skin exposed and keep your toes warm. 

The same holds true for your head – cold weather workouts warrant a hat that’s right for the job. You’ll want this piece of gear to be moisture-wicking yet heat-retaining. 

Remember, you can always take these off and stash them in your pocket if you get too warm, but you can’t do the opposite. Better to show up to your workout with extra gear than not enough. 

Think twice (and then two more times) about hydration   

Think you’ll need less water because you’re working out in the cold? Erase that thought stat with this key cold weather workout tip. While you may not feel as thirsty during a cold weather workout, you’re still losing just as much fluids, and preventing dehydration is still key.

Hydrate before, during, and after your workout. If ice cold water is your usual go-to, but you don’t want that in this instance, try bringing along room temperature water so you’ll be more likely to drink it. 

Research shows that 75% of Americans may be chronically dehydrated – do your part to combat this, especially in the cold weather, and give your body the hydration it needs to stay safe and active.  

Listen to your body, and to experts 

The very best advice of all for cold weather workouts is to listen to your body (and the weather forecast).

If you’re working out outside and something doesn’t feel right – numbness, tingling, shortness of breath – do not try and push through. Frostbite and hypothermia are not things you want to mess with. 

If you don’t get everything right with your gear/layering and hydration the first time around, don’t be hard on yourself. You’ll learn for next time and find what works best for you. Maybe you skipped an insulating layer, maybe you left too much skin exposed between your calves and your feet. If you listened to your body and headed back indoors when something didn’t feel right, you can feel good about being in tune and doing the right thing.

As far as the forecast goes, let negative wind chills act as a big red flag to keep your workout indoors that day. The same holds true with wintry weather and potentially unsafe conditions. Be wary of ice and use your best judgment when adding cold and wet weather to the mix. 

Enjoy the cold weather safely  

If you’ve taken all of the necessary precautions to be warm and safe, there’s a lot you can gain from cold weather workouts. 

Fresh air will do you some good, and a change of scenery always feels nice – especially these days. 

So, remember this final cold weather workout tip: take your preparation seriously and keep expert advice close by. Whether you love winter temps or they’re not usually your thing, there’s something to be said about getting outside on a crisp, brisk day. 


For more tips and ideas, check out our partner apps! From workouts to therapy, meditation, and everything in between, a Wellhub membership can help you start small in the biggest of ways. Sign up todayand start flexing your mind, body, and mood. 



Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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