Baby It’s Cold Outside

❄“Baby it’s cold ooouuuttsssiddde”

It’s that time of year where we’re cruising down the ⛷ slopes, trekking through the snow, and drinking the hot cocoa. It’s Winter Season! When we think of going outside in the winter time, aside from thinking about how to build the best snow fort, we have to think about what to wear to stay warm. Staying warm allows us to play longer. When we feel the cold outside, the body begins to sense changes in the environment’s temperature through receptors in our skin. It then kickstarts two main mechanisms to decrease heat loss to the environment and increase heat production through muscle contraction: vasoconstriction (blood vessel constriction) and thermogenesis (warmth generation) through shivering. And, what’s the first movement you do when you shiver? We shrug those shoulders and cross those arms.

This is not inherently bad, but we don’t need to wear our shoulders as ear muffs throughout the entirety of winter. When our shoulders elevate up and forward, it gets harder to lift our arms overhead. Try it yourself: shrug your shoulders up and forward. Then, raise your arm staying in that position? A bit hard, right? Now try it from a relaxed position where you’re reaching your arm forward then up overhead 🏋️‍♀️. Perhaps a bit easier and more comfortable? Getting those shoulders and even neck to relax can be beneficial in avoiding those feelings of tightness and crankiness within the shoulder and neck area. Here are some ways to get those shoulders and neck to relax:

🏠At Home
  1. Take a bath. Rx+: add Epsom salts.
  2. Drink warm beverages (tea, water, etc.).
  3. Deep breathing
💪Before Gym Class
  1. 5 minutes bike or row or jog in place before class. Add some shoulder or neck stretching after.
  2. Wear pants and a sweatshirt until you’re sweating everywhere. Rx+: wear a hat.
  3. Shoulder and neck rolls.

Alright, those sound doable. What if I’m going for a  run outside? Good question. The biggest questions to reflect on before running outside are the following: what is the 🌡 temperature? Is there 💨 wind? What terrain will I be running, snowshoeing, skiing, or biking on? Running on uneven terrain or snow/ice may change what kind of shoes you wear to stay safe from falls, slips, rolling an ankle, or other. The temperature and wind chill factor will determine the layers of clothing you must have in order to decrease risk for a cold injury (see link)❄*. It will also determine how long you should perform your activity for (see link for Wind Chill Table)💨**.  


💨** A, United States National Weather Service Wind Chill Chart (figure reproduced from B, Meteorological Society of Canada/EnvironmentCanada Wind-Chill Calculation Chart (figure adapted from

NATA Position Statement: Environmental Cold Injuries.

Reference: NATA Position Statement: Environmental Cold Injuries.

The above (❄*link) table gives you an example of clothing combinations that can increase your clothing insulation factor. Although it doesn’t provide a correlation with temperature, use your personal preference given how the cold impacts you when you’re outside this winter. Most likely you don’t need an extreme cold weather parka unless you’re in Antarctica, but when in doubt, you can always put on another layer and take it off when you need to. Another tip to remember is to stay dry. Getting your clothes wet may increase heat loss because your body will have to keep that water warm.

To summarize, enjoy your activities outside. Build some awesome forts, participate in epic snow ball fights, and tackle the slopes, but remember the following take home points:

  1. Wear pants and a sweatshirt to warm up in at the gym.
  2. Wearing multiple DRY layers during outside activities is always better than not enough.
  3. Drink a cup of hot cocoa, water, or tea during the day.
  4. Take a hot bath or shower at home letting the water run over the neck and shoulders.
  5. Take some deep breaths and let those shoulders sink down. Perform some slow shoulder and neck rolls to get things moving
  6.  If 1-5 don’t work, performing 10 burpees on the spot. Never fails 😜.

Leave a Reply