Baby, It’s Cold Outside is a Christmas song written in 1944 by Frank Loesser. It’s a conversation between a woman who has to go and a man who keeps telling her “But baby, it’s cold outside.”

“I really can’t stay
(But baby, it’s cold outside)
I’ve got to go away
(But baby, it’s cold outside)”

Runner man in fall running in autumn with gloves

Avoid the Common Excuses
It’ll soon be cold out there with lots of excuses not to leave, to stay indoors, and surely not to exercise.  Whether it’s Foreigner’s Cold as Ice, or Loesser’s Baby, It’s Cold Outside, there are many barriers to convince people that winter is a time to stay indoors and be sedentary.  It’s not. Of course winter activities can be challenging, but like everything else, “the link is what you think.”

It’s just weather. If you think it’s a great opportunity to try new activities, to enjoy the crunch of falling leaves under your feet, to have snowball fights, or to do some hiking or jogging in the crisp fall air.  Then you’ll love the coming months and stay in shape.

If you think instead that it’s too cold, that you’ll freeze to death, that you’ll get injured, that there isn’t enough daylight to be active, then you’ll surely believe it’s inevitable to put on some weight and be more sedentary.

“The link is what you think.” I want you to think rationally, logically and accurately about the coming months wherever you live and use the fall and winter to think outside the box to keep your health, fitness and wellness levels up and move into next spring feeling great!

Have a Positive Mindset
Sure some folks will deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but when the days grow short guess what helps? Running! It can promote the release of depression-fighting hormones leaving those suffering with this very real malady in better moods and feeling more positive.  And we know that positive thinking and a positive outlook, the kind that comes from physical activity, improves your overall health.

Staying indoors, breathing all that heated air as many do during the colder months, isn’t the healthiest for your lungs or for your mind. Getting outside, properly dressed for the cold, enjoying the outdoor crisp air, gives you a chance to literally detox your mind and body. It doesn’t take as many changes as you might think to enjoy it all.

So the first thing that’s needed is the right mindset. What do you enjoy about the fall and winter months? Keep your eye on those things.

Fall and winter are great times to try on new activities, join new classes at your local gym, gain new skills, add new strength training activities and find new ways to integrate exercise and activities into your daily life.

Some use the winter months to form a base, with activities that add to endurance.  Longer runs, along with swimming and cycling indoors will add to your volume.  Springtime is the time to build with added weight and resistance training, as well as more interval cardio training to increase speed and strength.  Summer and fall are great times to put it all into practice and get out there for your 5K, 10K, and marathon races.

Get Prepared for Exercise Outdoors
Exercising outdoors when it’s cold outside requires a bit of preparation to make your activities successful.  A few smart things you can do are:

  • Dress properly in thin wicking insulating layers to prevent hypothermia and frostbite in some climates.
  • Wear reflective gear or a headlamp for running in the dark.
  • Put on a fleece or thermal hat to prevent 50% heat loss from your head.
  • Keep your hands and feet warm with mittens, because you can lose 30% of your body heat through your extremities.
  • Cover your face with a balaclava (ski mask).
  • Carry some ChapStick.
  • Plan a route with icy patches in mind.
  •  Always run with a buddy.
  • Wear shoes that give you a bit more traction and are water-proof and socks that are wicking, not cotton, and made of wool or CoolMax.

Get Active beyond Your Workout
Remember that there are lots of everyday activities to rejuvenate you and give you more natural energy during your day, including:

  • Shoveling snow
  • Walking at lunchtime with friends
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Parking further away from your destination or getting off the bus or subway a few stops earlier
  • Staying active while indoors with physical movement during TV commercials

Find Music to Motivate You
When we think of the winter season, filled with holidays, music always tops the list along with food, friends and family get-togethers.  Crank up your RockMyRun mixes for the genre and beats per minute that inspire your body and soul, that promote your focus on your health and above all, to motivate you to enjoy the spirit of the season and the holidays happy, active and fit.

What are your tips for staying active, once the temperatures drop outdoors?

Post contributed by Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.  Dr. Mantell has served as a long-time Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego and today is the Senior Fitness Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise, a behavioral sciences coach, an author and a national fitness-health speaker.