By Tej Mehta
It’s that time of year again.
As much as we wish the (somewhat) mild Mid-Atlantic fall weather would stay here forever, the bleak winter temperatures are about to move in.
The cold doesn’t mean we have to stop going outside though, as long as we do it responsibly. So, here are some things to keep in mind as we transition to the winter season of outdoor activities.
1. Layer Up
This one’s pretty obvious, but there are a couple of specifics worth going into. When you are cold, your body sends blood to your core region, making sure that the important organs situated there get the nutrients, oxygen and (in the case of the kidneys) waste from the body. As the body tries to send blood to the core region, it restricts blood flow to the skin and other parts of the body. This means that it is extremely important to keep your central body region warm because in doing so your body will not restrict blood flow, and consequently the flow of heat to things such as your toes and fingers.
Following this science of heat flow in the body, I would recommend wearing a warm base layer, or thermal first layer then adding a jacket on top. This will increase heat retention in the center of your body and will therefore hopefully make issues like frozen toes less of an issue.
2. For the cyclists - take extra care of your bike
The cold weather takes an extra toll on the moving parts of a bicycle - here are a few things to make sure to do to preserve the life of your bike. First, make sure to clean your chain and cassette (gears). You need to make extra effort cleaning because during the winter there’s a significantly larger number of road debris that can get caught in those parts of your bike - road salt, rain, and water from puddles are just a few things that your bike may be tracking home.
Another important thing to do to protect your bike during the winter is to make sure you are applying chain lube. Getting chain lube, whether it be regular (dry) lube or wet lube if you are riding in wet conditions, and applying it to your bike after rides will not only make your rides smoother but will also improve the longevity of your bike components. Last winter riding season I didn’t apply chain lube for months and had a squeaky chain which negatively impacted the performance of my bike. This year I’ll be making sure to lubricate my chain so I don’t have to hear a high-pitched creak while riding, so that I can have a smoother ride, and so that I won’t have to replace my chain anytime soon.
3. Drink and Eat
During the winter, you may not be sweating as much as you usually do during the summer, or may not feel as thirsty as you do during warmer months. This could lead to a reduction in the amount of water you intake. Coupled with the fact that the air is dryer and that the kidneys excrete more bodily fluids in the cold, the need for remembering to drink water during the winter is greater than ever.
As for how much to drink each day, here are some numbers from the Federal Institute of Medicine: men should drink twelve 8-ounce glasses a day and women should drink eight 8-ounce glasses.
Eating is also something you should consider doing while outdoors in the winter. When you have a snack, your body begins the digestion process. This process requires energy and therefore produces heat, which can help you warm up. So if you are out on a hike or bike ride in the cold, have a bite to eat so your body can naturally warm itself.
Hopefully these tips can provide you with some interesting things to think about while transitioning to the winter season. As always, remember to keep safety in mind as you go outside this winter. That being said, don’t forget to enjoy yourself in the outdoors, regardless of how cold it may be.