As we head into the winter months, walking and running are the easiest of the outdoor exercises to keep up as they don’t really require much in the way of extra gear or certain conditions. As long as it’s not too cold, you can pretty much put on your shoes and, with some extra preparation, hit the road. Here are a few things to think about before you head out the door.

With any movement-related activity, warm-ups and cool-downs are essential for cold weather activities, a dynamic warm-up is recommended, which uses movement to warm your muscles up as opposed to the more traditional static stretching which involved just holding positions.

The dynamic stretching approach gives your body an active range of motion to warm muscles up that’s similar to the exercise you’re about to perform. This is definitely a must when running but if you’re just getting ready for a winter walk, it’s not as essential but it can only help improve your range of motion before starting out.

As for static stretching, that’s still a good practice for when you’re done with your workout. It is beneficial to hold the stretches for 30 seconds to about 2 minutes. Be sure you are performing a tolerable stretch, and not causing pain. You want to keep that flexibility and pliability in the muscle after working out.

Get the Correct Equipment
Be sure you get the right shoes for running or walking. Having poor-fitting sneakers can derail your exercise initiative before it really gets started. If you are new to running, start with a running program. These programs can help you begin safely and continue progressing toward your goal of completing a 5K, 10K or even a marathon. So be sure to start a program that fits your level of ability.

Be Safe
Assess your outdoor conditions. Sidewalk surfaces can often be uneven which can cause injury. Do your best to stay on clear sidewalks as snow and ice can make conditions treacherous and injuries more likely. Look out for overuse injuries, too, especially if you’re new to running.

Knee- and hip-related issues come about if you’re pushing above what your body’s capable of doing. If you’re just starting out, injuring yourself can be a really disappointing setback and you always want to start out in a positive way. If it is too risky to run, try snowshoeing instead or you can always take your activity inside.

The months leading up to and after the holidays are a perfect opportunity to help local people and communities in need. Look for volunteer prospects that involve physical activity, such as working at a shelter or soup kitchen, gathering trash and litter, shoveling snow or walking dogs for elderly residents, even packing care boxes for the Blue Star Mothers’ of Valencia County Operation Gratitude donation. Check the National & Community Service website to find out how you can combine goal-setting with goodwill.