Staying active in rain, cold and snow

Winter weather and less daylight may not motivate you to get outside like a beautiful summer day in Seattle. However, you can stay active this winter and stay warm when you plan ahead and dress for the weather. Here are some tips to keep you active this winter:

Stay Warm with Layers

Layering is key to a winter workout to avoid over-dressing for the initial chill. How much you layer depends on the intensity of your exercise and temperature. Start out by dressing as if it is 15-20 degrees warmer outside than the actual outside temperature to reduce overheating and excessive sweating. Your body temperature will still rise during your activity, no matter how cold it is outside. If you do feel toasty, remove a layer – you’ll have it close by if you need to add it back.

Create a Layering System

For your base layer, choose synthetic or merino wool fabric to wick moisture away from your skin and retain heat. Avoid fabrics like cotton as they retain moisture and can lead to over-cooling and hypothermia.

Over your base layer, wear long sleeves. Try a light, waterproof jacket when completing high intensity cardio workouts. Add a fleece for lower intensity exercises such as walking. Combine a light jacket and fleece when temperatures are near or below freezing.

Protect your head, hands and feet. Running hats, beanies, waterproof footwear and thin wicking fabric gloves will retain heat and keep you dry.

Warm Up and Cool Down

Warming up before and after exercising in chillier winter temperatures may prevent certain ailments. In the cold, focus on dynamic warm-ups 5-10 minutes of brisk walking, jogging or jumping jacks to get your blood flowing and loosen up your muscles and tendons

Keep Your Breath

Have you ever experienced shortness of breath, coughing or chest tightness while exercising in colder conditions?

Cold and dry weather can lead to more health issues if you have respiratory conditions. Asthma, chronic coughing, and exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. EIB can worsen during exercise.

If symptoms arise, try lowering intensity levels, hydrating or taking breaks during exercise. If symptoms worsen, talk to your doctor to help manage your condition.

Hydrating is Key

Staying hydrated is important, especially during colder conditions because it can be harder to notice signs of dehydration. Excessive sweating and breathing in and exhaling winter air can expedite dehydration. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout.


  • Drink room temperature water during colder conditions.
  • If your physical activity lasts more than one hour, replace electrolytes and carbohydrates with a sports drink or light snack.

Watch the Weather

We can’t control the weather but we can control our routine. Change up your exercise with indoor activity if there is snow, heavy rain or inclement conditions.

Try: Interval workouts on a treadmill, high-intensity circuit training, yoga classes or free weights.

Dr. Ryan Hudson is a board certified sports medicine provider at The Polyclinic. He stays active through running, lifting weights, yoga, basketball and exploring the Pacific Northwest.


January 29, 2018 | by Ryan Hudson MD


Written By: Ryan Hudson MD