Ian Dempsey speaks to Female First in an exclusive interview
Ian Dempsey speaks to Female First in an exclusive interview

Days are getting colder; TV adverts are awash with Christmas and the nights are getting darker earlier which can only mean one thing – winter is coming, and outdoor exercise is getting harder to do.

But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Ian Dempsey, pro triathlete, coach and Freetrain ambassador (freetrain.co.uk) explains that people can stay safe and get motivated when exercising in winter.

Dempsey thinks a warmup is key in winter to avoid sprains and other injuries and also advises on the best workout clothes to wear to avoid getting too hot or cold.

He also gives tips on how to keep fit indoors if the weather isn’t suitable for your outdoor workout.

How important is it to stay safe when exercising in winter?

It’s definitely something that should be on your mind. There are multiple factors that contribute to winter being a potentially more hazardous time to exercise. You have to consider that the colder temperatures will make your muscles more likely to seize up, and potentially injure yourself.

Not only that though, there is less light in winter which means you have to consider being visible to cars if you’re on roads and being more wary of where you place your feet to avoid uneven surfaces.

Why is it key to warmup before exercising in the cold?

If the muscles are cold, you’re going to rapidly increase your chance of getting injured. If you go from a nice warm house and then shock your muscles by going out in to the cold, you are really increasing your chance of picking up little sprains that can disrupt your training rhythm.

I always make sure I do a good 10-15 minute warm up before stepping outside which includes using a massage gun, a set of calf raises to get the Achilles warmed up and then really activate my quads and hamstrings. Get your heart rate up a bit when you’re indoors before going out into the cold and that will really help your body adapt.

"Layers are absolutely vital", Ian Dempsey says

How can people maintain their breathing in the cold air?

Again, that comes back to the warmup. If your heart rate is elevated and it knows it is ready for exercise, then when you go out and hit that cold air you are far less likely to be affected by it than if you went straight outside and tried to raise your heart rate from scratch out there. With cold air breathing, it is actually something that gets easier with time – trust me!

However, if you’re still really struggling then don’t hesitate to save some of the heavier breathing workouts (sprints, HIIT etc) for when the weather is a bit warmer – or try and move them indoors!

What is essential for people to wear and take with them when exercising in the winter to prevent injury?

Layers are absolutely vital but it’s really crucial to make sure you aren’t blown away by the cold as you step outside and overdress. Remember that within the first 10 minutes, after you’ve warmed up then your body temp is going to rise drastically so you don’t want to overdress based off the initial cold.

You want a really good quality base layer, which will whip the sweat away from your body quickly because the last thing you want is the wind whipping against your sweat making you cold. I then tend to wear a windbreak outer layer, which is also waterproof. This is super lightweight and good for most occasions.

If it’s really, really cold then stick a third layer between base and windbreaker, a lightweight jumper perhaps. But generally, the two layers should be enough once you get going.

How can people stay safe when exercising in the dark and cold?

I always ensure that I use reflective gear when running. If you’re running in the dark on roads, then it’s just so important that when the headlights go on you, you are easily spotted – it’s just not safe otherwise.

I use a Freetrain VR Vest because it is so bright and reflective. The VR vest brings practicality and safety together. It is made from ultra-reflective material that lights up the dark whilst giving you the most streamlined & balanced way to take your small essentials with you whilst you train.

Ian Dempsey explains why exercise doesn't have to be difficult in winter
Ian Dempsey explains why exercise doesn't have to be difficult in winter

If the weather is absolutely awful and people can't get the motivation to go out in it, do you have any suggestions of exercises they could do indoors?

Try to find things that make you accountable if you’re struggling with motivation. Having a training buddy helps because if you agree to train with someone, it’s much harder to back out and can also make it more fun! Booking on to a class in your local gym is a great bad weather option too, as the process of booking in means that you are more likely to attend, and you can get a sense of community as well as your exercise.

I’m also a big fan of doing circuits at home. Doing really simple burpees, sit ups, press ups and plank rotation can be a great way of getting the blood pumping and the heart rate up without having to brave the brutal weather.

Words by Lucy Roberts for Female First, who you can follow on Twitter, @Lucy_Roberts_72.

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