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The Dark Side of Exercising: How to Conquer Those Cold and Dark Months

By November 14, 2022December 6th, 2022Featured Fitness Well-being
A digital clock reading five a.m.

I’ve recently become a morning person. And it only took me 38 years! In July, I joined a new gym, which has 6 a.m. classes, so I’m motivated to work out in a way that I wasn’t before.

Getting up at 5 a.m. was daunting at first, but the sun shining brightly through my window helped wake me up. As the summer turned into fall, those 5 a.m. wake-up alarms felt like I was waking up in the middle of the night. And sneaking out of my house, making sure I don’t wake anyone up in the dark, is a little unsettling, too.

I enjoy finishing my workout early in the morning, so I have the rest of my day to do whatever I want. After seeing other cars on the road, and even runners, I know I’m not alone. But I’m also sure I’m not alone in being a little nervous venturing out by myself so early in the morning when it’s still dark.

In the evenings, it’s getting dark earlier as well. So, anyone who works out or runs after work is dealing with a similar problem.

Exercising in the Dark Dos and Don’ts

It’s hard to make yourself keep up with a fitness routine during colder months. But sticking to one can really help your physical and mental health. If you can’t make it out during daylight hours to work out, here are some tips for exercising safely outside when it’s dark.

DO Let Someone Know Where You’ll Be

Make sure someone knows your running route, where your gym is, and when you leave. Even if everyone in your home is still asleep, leave a note.

DON’T Bring Headphones

This one is tough to follow but listening to music while running in the dark can prevent you from hearing vehicles, people, or even animals approaching you.

DO Dress to Be Seen

It’s best to be as visible as possible so cars out on the road can see you. One piece of reflective gear, like a vest, belt, or jacket, works.

DON’T Forget Your Phone

Make sure your phone is fully charged and bring it with you in case of an emergency.

DO Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Try choosing routes you know the best, and that are well-lit. Now is not the time to explore a road you’ve never traveled.

DON’T Travel with the Traffic

Walk or run against traffic so you can adequately see oncoming cars. Use streets with a sidewalk, a shoulder, or a wide road.

DO Protect Your Head, Hands, and Feet

Temps are typically colder in the dark, and exercising in cold weather puts your body at risk of hypothermia. Wear a hat, gloves, and thicker socks to keep your appendages warm.

Heading to an Early Class

If you’re not necessarily on the road by foot or bike in the wee hours but are heading to a gym or fitness center, here are some things I do to ensure I get there safely.

  • I tell my family when I’m leaving, and they know where my gym is.
  • I turn all outside lights on.
  • I unlock my car from my front door. (If I had an automatic starter, I would start it, too.)
  • I lock my doors immediately after I get in my car.
  • I leave plenty of time to get to my class, so I’m not rushing and can be as aware of my surroundings as possible.
  • I drive on main, well-lit roads.

By the time my class is over, the sun has risen, and I make my way home to start work for the day!

Staying Motivated

Don’t look at the late fall and winter months as “time off” from working out. When it comes to sticking to an exercise routine when it’s cold and dark, the struggle is real. It takes much more motivation to get up from under that blanket on the couch and move.

Find something you love, whether a virtual video you can do in your own home or a class at a gym. If you love doing it, you’ll likely stick to it.

Ashley Weyler

I’m a writer and a film, music, and TV buff who loves Philadelphia sports. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, which means I’m always on-the-go. I try to make healthy decisions that fit with my lifestyle; whether it’s choosing healthy food while eating at a restaurant, finding exercises I enjoy doing so I stay motivated, or achieving a good work-life balance.