Whether it's having your training sessions restricted to climate-controlled indoor environments or dealing with inclement weather in your outdoor workouts, many people find winter a challenging time to keep their fitness program on track. But it doesn't have to be that way. With some understanding of how to prepare for the colder temperatures, and a willingness to venture into the cold, the winter season can be transformed into an incredible time of outside fun and training opportunities.
So what are the options? We can divide them into two general groups. Gravity-based Winter Sports tend to be more strength and power-based and appeal to the fun loving, adventurous type. The exertion is generally short lived and intense and is usually coupled with great speed. Downhill skiing and snowboarding top the list, but for those with a more self propelled spirit, ski touring, back country skiing and ice climbing are great winter options.
The more vigorous cousins to Gravity-based Winter Sports are Cardiovascular-based Winter Sports. Snow-shoeing, running, skating, x-country skiing and skate skiing are winter activities that can be done in almost any temperatures. There is even the option of winter triathlons that merge trail running with mountain biking and skate skiing.
So why do people who love the outdoors hibernate through the cold months as they wait for spring? Most of the time it's because people just don't think they can stay warm, but the following guidelines can help you get beyond the initial obstacles cold weather can present.
10 Winter Training Tips
- Use base-layer clothing made from fabrics that are designed to wick moisture away from your skin. This will keep you dry and warm for the duration of the workout.
- Do not overdress. Though this may feel nice and comfortable at the beginning, you will sweat much more than you would otherwise, making your clothes wet. Wet clothes = cold body. Generally speaking, if you feel slightly cool before starting your activity, you have dressed perfectly for the conditions.
- Dress to your training plan. Hard workouts will require less clothing than easier workouts. If you are unsure how to dress, bring a shell jacket that can be used for your warm up and cool down, but can be easily taken off and stowed for the more difficult part of the workout.
- Wear shades. In most cool or cold weather conditions, sport sunglasses will protect eyes from the bright sun reflecting off of the snow and prevent them from watering due to the cold or wind.
- Get down. The down coat is king when it comes to cold environments and intermittent activities that involve stopping. A light-weight down coat is the perfect solution to keep you toasty during winter sports that incorporate periods of prolonged rest.
- Staying on your feet and keeping them warm go a long way toward enjoying outdoor winter activities. Over-layering your feet will cause them to sweat, which can lead to cold toes. For cardiovascular-based sports, a single pair of warm, wicking socks will normally do. In very cold conditions or for gravity-based sports, use a double layer of socks.
- A good trail running shoe provides extra traction for slippery surfaces and many offer waterproof features that help keep your feet dry. In areas with deep snow, a pair of light gators will keep the snow out of your shoes.
- Stay hydrated. One of the biggest challenges for training in cold temperatures is avoiding de-hydration. While it may feel unappealing, drinking regularly during these lower temperature workouts is just as necessary as in warmer weather. Filling water bottles with lukewarm fluids will help to prevent them from freezing or being too cold to drink comfortably.
- Plan your route ahead of time. Use a loop course to avoid getting too far away from home in the event something were to go wrong during your activity.
- Avoiding frost bite and hypothermia is the most important consideration when preparing for cold weather activities. Make sure all of your skin is covered and carry an extra layer in case the conditions change during your workout.
The cold weather can bring a winter wonderland of training possibilities for the active person. With a little planning and knowledge, along with the right clothing, you will be amazed at how enjoyable the crisp air can feel. Almost as good as the well deserved hot chocolate in front of a warm fire afterwards.
Fraser Quelch is Director of Programming and Education for TRX. He is also a featured fitness author and a competitive ironman triathlete.