Staying safe during winter pt

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- -- Winter fitness is an exhilarating experience, but if the proper safety measures are not taken, the cold and physical exertion can lead to a serious injury.

Even an area as far south as San Angelo can experience dangerously cold temperatures during winter months. According The Weather Channel's website, temperatures here have occasionally dropped to single digits in December, and the lowest recorded temperatures have reached two below zero.

While these temperatures are not as cold as they are further north, it is definitely cold enough to cause serious injury if safety measures are not taken before and during physical training.

Natalie McCoy, a fitness staff member and physical training leader at Mathis Gym here, said one of the simplest ways to prevent injury is to warm-up with light exercise and lightly stretch before beginning any workout.

"Warming-up, stretching and staying hydrated before exercising is important year-round," said Ms. McCoy. "Because of the cold, it is especially important to make sure your muscles are prepared for strenuous activity during the winter. Even during the winter months, people can suffer from dehydration, which, among other issues, can cause headaches, muscle cramps and an upset stomach."

Being mindful of exercise attire is also necessary during winter exercise. People can still suffer from heat exhaustion, fatigue, and illness if their clothing does not allow proper ventilation for excess heat to escape. If exercising indoors, gyms have heating and cooling systems, so normal PT clothing is fine, she said.

People exercising outdoors, in temperatures below 40 degrees should wear gloves, leggings, pants and something to keep their head warm, she said.

Tech. Sgt. James Fountain, 17th Training Wing Safety, said it is very important to be aware of what your body is telling you.

"You have to know your limits and don't push beyond them," he said. "Fatigue is a big risk factor for injuries."

He added that situational awareness is also a key to winter PT safety, urging runners to pay attention to the ground because ice can be hard to spot.

"Runners also need to remember to watch out for pedestrians and for traffic," he said. "Always wear a safety belt in hours of darkness or anytime when vision might be impaired by inclement weather."

Those participating in outdoor winter activities should do their research and find out what the recommended guidelines are for safety gear. Helmets, pads and eyewear are more than worth it, Sergeant Fountain said.