Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cold-Weather Precautions, Even in the Southland

The TV weather forecasts keep warning that a bitter cold wave is about to hit South Carolina. They did it again last night. And yet today was sunny with temperatures in the 50s. When we lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the folks at the country store would call that a heat wave. Superdawg and I rated today's conditions A+ for walking, as though we were back on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Tonight, though, the cold may be settling in. Temperatures are dropping through the 30s and tomorrow they say the wind chills may be in the 20s much of the day. Therefore, even though South Carolina will not shiver as if it overnight had become South Dakota, it is time to think about precautions for cold-weather walking. The Mayo Clinic, as usual, covers the subject comprehensively.

Much of the drill veteran walkers probably know: Dress in layers, so you can remove a layer if you get too warm, and then put it back on if you get chilled. That beats wearing just a heavy-down jacket that could cause you to overheat, with no way to peel down. Of course, if you have heart problems or asthma, you should check with your doctor about whether you should walk in the cold and how far, with the meds you take also being a consideration.

Here are a few precautions I should be attuned to, but haven't been: Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, because it is just as easy to get sunburned in winter as in summer. Skin cancer is a real threat in the Southern climate.

If you can, complete the second half of your walk with the wind at your back. That makes it less likely you will get chilled after having worked up a sweat. I recall many times wishing I had the wind at my back in the second half of a wind-chilled walk, but I've never done the necessary planning.

Hydration is important, another good point that I too often overlook. Mayo says drink before, during, and after your walk or other workout. It actually may be easier to become dehydrated in the winter because you don't notice symptoms as you would in the summer,

Finally, we older folks should be aware that walking or running in cold, rainy weather will put us at a higher risk of hypothermia than faced by the young studs. Yeah, life is unfair, but walking in a downpour in the dead of winter doesn't particularly appeal to me, to tell the truth.

Anyway, Superdawg and I hope for another bright day under Carolina-blue skies tomorrow, even if there is a chilly wind blowing in our faces.

© Robert G. Holland 2013

For more information:  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fitness/HQ01681

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