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Coaches Blog

Winter Weather Training Hacks

Updated: Feb 14, 2020

by Mandi Kowal

The cold has hit Iowa earlier than usual and we have already experienced multiple days of single digit wind chills. It was only two weeks ago I was running in shorts and a t-shirt. Yesterday, it was a much different story.

My face stung from the wind and I had to take my glasses off because the nose bridge was so cold it was creating this intense ache on my nose. Not to mention, I had about 5 lbs of clothes on.

We went from awesome workout weather to extreme cold in less than a week. And I noticed that getting the workout started seemed to be tougher. (Except maybe for Coach Chris Palmquist who's eagerly waiting for a measurable amount of snow to kick off her cross country skiing season.) For me, it's a different story and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.

I thought I would share with you how to make it a little easier to head out the door on those cold days where it just seems hard to get going. Here are some tricks and tactics to get you out the door during the extreme cold, plus some other winter weather ideas!

To minimize the temperature shock I have done the following:

Put my swim suit or running clothes in the dryer for a few minutes. t's like heaven when you put those on. Sure they don't stay warm but it's a little treat that can make a cold winter morning a bit more enjoyable.

Do a little warm-up indoors. Pick 5 exercises and do 10-15 reps. I actually do it with the clothes I plan to run in. That way when I start to heat up I head out the door. This helps my body warm up easier and prepare for the extreme cold. I actually want to get outside to cool off.

Sit in the hot tub/sauna/steam room for 10-15 min. It's a treat and after some time you will be ready to jump into that pool and get the workout started. Removing the tension from the body helps to start the workout in a better physical state. And when the these aren't at your facility or available at that hour your can... drive to the pool or track with the heat cranked. Have all your gear on, and get nice and toasty. Soon you will want to get out of the car just to cool off. I've done this at multiple races and found it to be really helpful. And lastly, just jump in the pool! I've rid myself of slithering into the pool and adopted my daughters "jump right in" approach. That certainly has helped with less time to think about it.

To adjust for different conditions consider the following:

Get Yak Trax (or similar) to improve traction on winter surfaces.

Recruit friends because it will keep you accountable. I know I don't want to let my workout buddies down so it gets me up and out. There's nothing like having workout wingman on your side.

Purchase a head lamp for those runs in the dark. It sure is nice to see where you are going. Even consider other lights or vests equipped with lights to be seen while you are out on the streets running.

Have proper clothing. Wear sweat wicking material, avoid cotton, wear a wind breaking jacket/vest, layer up, and protect your skin.

Stay hydrated! It's easy to make the mistake of not drinking enough in the cold.

Start into the wind and finish in a tailwind. The goal is to reduce wind chill for the 2nd half of the run when you're sweaty and at a higher risk of losing body heat.

Lastly...buck up, put on your big girl or boy pants, and get out the door! Yep, most days this is what one needs to do, but we are all human. So why not make it as pleasant as possible for yourself. My best days are when I have a warm drink, roll out my body, do a little mobility, dress to head out, crank out a body circuit, and head out the door with family or friends.

Remember there is a strong sense of pride getting it done in less than ideal conditions. When you embrace the cold, you will start to notice those subtle gifts along the way. That invigorating feeling of getting started, the moment you are warmed up and in a zone, the time of peaceful moments of having the roads to yourself, and that feeling, after your back indoors, of thawing out, with your cheeks feeling hot from the wind.

Have fun with it. Enjoy!

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