The importance of climate control

Posted: November 14, 2012 in cold weather, Exercise, Physical activity, Walking

Climate control… schemes for controlling the environmental elements of an area or region.

This can refer to a refrigerator or freezer used to keep food fresh and beer cold, or it can refer to keeping your house warm or cool, depending on the season.

At my place of employment, it usually translates into keeping one section of the building as the polar zone while the area directly across the hallway feels like the front porch of Hell.

It brings to mind an issue that, being a fattie, I suffer with. Temperature control. At least when it deals with warmth. In cold weather, exertion is quick to make me perspire, which is also uncomfortable, but I really start to wilt as the temperature climbs. I guess I’m really screwed if this global warming stuff keeps up.

Either way, exertion makes me sweat. So does spicy food. So, maybe eating hot wings on a treadmill isn’t the best idea. Granted, that’s never a good idea. What I’m driving at is that with the upcoming winter weather, it’s best to take steps to protect yourself if exercising outdoors. The American Council on Exercise suggests the following tips:

  1. Wear layers. Insulating yourself against the wind and other elements is key, so create a layered barrier instead of a single bulk. (The advantage is you can always remove the outer layer if you get over-heated.) The first layer that’s directly touching your skin should be a lightweight synthetic or polyester material. It will dry quickly and wick away moisture. The second layer should be wool or polyester fleece. The outermost layer — worn in the rain, snow, or wind — should be lighter weight and water-repellent to help you stay dry.
  2. Add a hat. About 50 percent of body heat is lost from an uncovered head when the temperatures hit the freezing mark. Wearing a hat will help your body retain heat.
  3. Don’t forget your gloves. Keeping hands and feet warm is key in the cold temperatures since your body will shunt blood away from extremities to keep your internal organs warm. Gloves will help prevent skin damage and frostbite in sub-zero temperatures. To keep your feet warm, make sure your torso is properly insulated. That will drive blood back down to your lower extremities.
  4. Avoid heavy cotton materials that sop up sweat. These will make you wetter and colder. Stick with wool and polyester fabrics.
  5. Check the forecast. Check the air temperature and wind chill factor before exercising in the cold. The US National Safety Council says there’s little risk when exercising in 20° Fahrenheit  even with 30 miles per hour winds, but that dangers exist when the combined temperature and windchill falls below -20°F.
  6. Consider a face mask or scarf in frigid temperatures. If those temperatures are dipping near the danger zone, protect the skin on your face by covering it up. Having a loose layer over your nose and mouth can also warm frigid air before you inhale, helping to protect your lungs.

Nowadays, I only run if chased (and that might even be doubtful), but these are smart tips to follow even if you’re just taking a walk, or shoveling snow, even hanging Christmas lights on your rain gutters. Any of these activities, no matter how slight the exertion, can cause some unsafe conditions… that’s why it’s important to keep yourself climate controlled. There have been many times that I’ve been outside shoveling snow and ice, drenched in sweat, even though it’s 15 degrees. I’ve been wearing Gore-Tex and Thinsulate heavy gloves and still can’t feel my fingers due to my extremities shutting down because I’m sweating so much I have to keep my jacket open.

The moral of the story is to be careful when out in the cold. Take care of yourself. Frostbite is no picnic, so don’t click on the link if you have a weak stomach.

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