Our 5 Tips for Cold-weather Training

Cold-weather training is common in hockey players, skiers, snow boarders, and winter-sport endurance athletes. Battling the elements during training or competition can wreak havoc on your body and reduce your ability to perform at your highest level if the proper precautions are not taken. Preventing cold weather injuries and training effects should be of primary importance, especially as the temperature drops below freezing.

Tolerance to cold-weather training is much more difficult for the body, compared to hot-weather training. Heat is lost more readily via convective heat transfer from the skin, and the body has more difficulty maintaining its internal temperature in these conditions. Fitter athletes have an easier time maintaining a given exercise intensity and higher rates of metabolic heat production in colder weather than their unfit counterparts; but if heat loss exceeds heat production, the overall body heat content decreases, and peripheral and core body temperatures start to decline. If the body’s internal temperature drops below 35°C (95°F), hypothermia can develop, which can result in shivering, confusion, fatigue, and slurred speech. Reductions in internal body temperature can result in abnormal cardiac rhythms and eventually death.

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Freezing injuries, such as frostbite, are also a potential threat to winter athletes. Frostbite occurs when tissue temperatures fall below 0°C (32°F) and is most common in exposed skin, but can also occur in clothed hands and feet. In addition, if fatigue is high, due to physical exertion with training, sleep restriction, or underfeeding, the athlete’s ability to maintain thermal balance is reduced. Lastly, respiratory problems such as exercise-induced asthma and bronchial hyper-responsiveness are also common with cold-weather training. Breathing through the mouth during higher-intensity exercise can result in further heat and water loss from the expired air, and initiate an asthmatic response.

Plan your attack, and be prepared the next time you train in the cold. Keep your performance level high with the following five tips.



1. Layer Up

Wear a base layer of compression clothing on both your upper and lower bodies. Layer lose-fit athletic clothing next and ensure your socks, gloves, and headgear stay as dry as possible. Windbreaker-style jackets can be worn over thicker and more insulating pieces that also cover the neck region. As the body starts to warm up, clothing items can be removed to avoid over-heating. If the training intensity is high enough, your metabolic heat production may be enough to keep you warm.


2. Warm Up

The purpose of the warm up is just that, to increase your internal body temperature in preparation for the training ahead. An effective, dynamic warm up should take your major joints through their optimal range-of-motion while activating your muscles and movement patterns specific to your sport. Warming up effectively and adequately will improve limb blood flow and increase muscle compliance, which is highly important in the cold. Save the static stretching for later as this is not going to help you prepare effectively in the cold.


3. Rest Up & Eat Up

Be sure to get plenty of sleep leading up to your practices or competitions. Eat a light pre-workout meal with easily digestible proteins and carbohydrates. If your session is long, avoid glycogen depletion by fueling up on light snacks.




4. Drink Up

Even though you’re training in the cold, you might not be as thirsty as you would be training in a hotter environment, but this is not an excuse to get dehydrated. To ease your throat, fill your water bottle with lukewarm water and drink occasionally throughout your training session.

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5. Medicate Up

If you suffer from asthma or other breathing problems, ensure you have your medication handy. Inhaling cold air can result in throat irritation, damage, inflammation, and ultimately an asthmatic reaction, especially at higher breathing rates. Monitor your airways and take your medication when necessary.