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Operation Live Well: Cold-Weather exercise tips

6 Nov 2013 | Lance Cpl. Alejandro Bedoya

The Marine Corps is known for its demanding physical fitness standards throughout the ranks. Marines are urged to train throughout the year to maintain these physical fitness requirements. Even though the weather conditions change drastically in the desert, physical training will continue, and precautions should be taken to avoid injury.

“Many people think exercising in the cold is different from doing it in the heat,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Lilia Gardner, physical therapy technician, Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital. “You still have to do a proper warm up, dynamic stretches and hydrate to prevent injuries.”

            When exercising in the cold, there are a variety of precautions a person must take. They must pay attention to what they wear, the parts of the body that will get colder at a faster rate and the conditions in which they will be conducting their activities. A few basic precautions will help Marines conduct physical activities safely in cold weather.

What you wear

            A person’s attire is important when exercising in cold-weather conditions. It is recommended to dress in layers but also avoid dressing too warmly. When exercising, the body generates a considerable amount of heat. The ideal types of layers should be easily removable once the person is warmed up. Keep those removable layers nearby because your perspiration may create a frosty exterior. To avoid this issue, layer up again or use synthetic fabrics, such as polypropylene, which draws sweat away from the body. Try to avoid wearing cotton because once cotton materials become wet, they tend to hug the skin and retain moisture.

People may experiment before finding a combination of clothing that works well based on their exercise intensity. Another thing to consider is that conducting stop-and-go- exercises may make a person more vulnerable to the cold because they are repeatedly working up a sweat and then stopping.

Blood Flow

            Cold weather conditions cause the body to concentrate on heating the body’s core. This natural reaction causes the hands, feet and ears to become vulnerable. Wearing a pair of gloves or mittens while warming up will help prevent frostbite or other injury. Once warmed up, remove the gloves or mittens to avoid sweating. To help feet, wear thermal socks or simply wear an extra pair. Headbands or hats are also ideal to help keep warm.

Wind Chill and other conditions

            Avoid getting wet when exercising in the cold. Cold temperatures and wind chill can increase the risk of hypothermia when a person’s clothing gets wet. Dressing warmly is encouraged but wind chills can penetrate clothing and remove the warm air that surrounds the body. Any exposed skin is vulnerable to frostbite if the temperature gets low enough.

According to the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital, proper preparation is important when training in any weather conditions, especially the cold.

            Combat readiness is essential in the Corps, but safety always comes first. Without taking appropriate precautions, the consequences could be severe, but with proper planning and understanding, working out in the winter is worth the effort.


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