As winter slowly approaches, it’s important to remember there are hazards associated with colder weather and shorter days that can hinder workouts or cause injuries.
Joe Hafner, Garrison Safety Office Accident Investigations, said the most common exercise injuries that occur during the winter months are slips, trips, falls, strains/sprains, followed by minor exposure injuries to fingers, face or other exposed skin. Another winter hazard is getting struck by a motor vehicle.
There are steps to take before heading outside to help mitigate risks.
“Make a good, deliberate risk assessment,” Hafner said. “Have a plan, know the route, dress accordingly, and be aware of your surroundings.”
Safe workouts start with wearing the proper clothing for the weather conditions.
Hafner said people should consider their fitness level, how acclimated they are to the weather and what weather elements or road conditions they will be facing — dry, wet, wind, frozen surfaces, etc., as well as checking the forecast for both air temperature and wind chill factor.
The following are tips to consider when deciding how to dress:
Layers: Insulating against the wind and other elements is key, create layered barriers instead of a single bulk. Make sure the reflective belt is always visible when changing layers.
Materials: Avoid heavy cotton materials that soak up sweat, these will make you wetter and colder. Use clothing made from wool and polyester fabrics.
Face: Protect the skin on your face by covering it up. Also having a loose layers over your nose and mouth can warm frigid air before inhaling, helping to protect your lungs.
Hat: About 50 percent of body heat is lost from an uncovered head when temperatures hit the freezing mark. Wearing a hat will help your body retain heat.
Gloves: Keeping hands and feet warm is important in cold temperatures because the body will shunt blood away from extremities to keep your internal organs warm.
Stretching and hydration
Before starting an outdoor workout, it’s important to stretch and warm up to help avoid strains and sprains, Hafner said.
Additionally, staying well-hydrated is as imperative in winter as it is during summer months.
“The body doesn’t get as hot, and sweat evaporates more rapidly in the cold air, thus, we’re tricked into thinking we aren’t losing fluids as rapidly,” Hafner explained.
Heavier jackets, long underwear and other pieces of warm clothing help conserve body heat but the added weight of the clothing can cause the body to work between 10 and 40 percent harder, he said. The harder the body works the more sweat is produced, which contributes to fluid loss.
Reflective belts and roadways
Short winter days bring with them more hours of decreased visibility making the wearing of reflective gear imperative. Regardless of the time of day, Soldiers are required to wear a reflective safety belt or vest year round while participating in physical training, marching, working in detail, performing police call on, or along, an improved road, or performing duties as a vehicle convoy guide on Fort Bragg, Hafner said. Personnel running, not in troop formation, will wear reflective vests or belts during hours of limited visibility.
The belt or vest must be visible from the front and rear and unobstructed (not concealed) by clothing or equipment.
Also required year-round is for people to follow Fort Bragg Regulation 385-10, 22-14, which discusses troops on the roadway, specifically where formations and individuals can conduct PT, Hafner said.
“Whether it’s hot or cold, there is a misconception that pedestrians conducting PT have the right of way,” he said. “The installation provides areas that are closed to vehicular traffic during the hours of PT and encourages runners to use these areas.”
Runners, walkers and road marchers must use areas such as sidewalks, firebreaks, unimproved roads and road shoulders while conducting PT and cannot use hard-surfaced roads except to cross at right angles and preferably in a designated crossing area,” Hafner said.
He also emphasized it is prohibited to use headphones, while jogging/running, bicycling, or skating/skateboarding on or adjacent to roadways or roadway intersections on Department of Defense installations.