Updated: Apr 21, 2022
Exercising in cold temperatures is both a mental and physical challenge. Athletes may prefer to stay under the blankets or train indoors. But for those who prefer to train outdoors, a little preparation and caution are advised when exercising in cold/freezing temperatures. Here are some guidelines and tips:
The warm-up period must to be longer than working out in warmer temperature. Increase your typical warmup by 3 to 5 minutes as cooler muscles have a decreased capacity to generate force and are more prone to injuries.
Check the forecast and look at the wind-chill temperature index. Wind chill extremes can make exercising outdoors unpleasant and unsafe because wind can penetrate clothes and remove the warm layer of air around your body decreasing body temperature.
Keep workouts to 30 min or less when the temperature is minus 18 F or below. Snow or rain are factors that must be considered in the amount of time you train outdoors.
The areas of your body most sensitive to the cold are the skin of head, face, hands and feet because blood circulation is concentrated at core, leaving these parts with reduced skin blood circulation. Wear gloves, a cap/mask that covers the ears, and thermal socks. You may also want running shoes a half size larger to avoid compression of the toes.
Clothing for cold should be made up of layers. The first layer, or base layer, of clothing should be of lightweight synthetic material like polyester or polypropylene. Avoid cotton as it will become wet and adhere to your skin producing a chilled sensation. A second layer of fleece or wool will serve as the primary insulation. An outermost third layer should allow moisture transfer to the air while repelling wind and rain. This layer should worn only with wind or rain or during rest periods, not during prolonged workouts because it can cause accumulation of vapor.
Some medical conditions like asthma, coronary disease, and Raynaud´s syndrome can be aggravated by exercising in cold and a medical clearance should be obtained.
Athletes should talk with coaches about signs/symptoms and prevention of frostbite and cold related injuries.
The body doesn't need to acclimatize for training in cold. Athletes do no have to deal with the heat-humidity combination that affect athletes in summer temperatures. By wearing appropriate clothing and using adequate hydration and nutrition, athletes can spend more time training in cold temperatures because the body can regulate the temperature better than in heat. This is good news for longer winter workouts that are often part of base training this time of year.
Enjoy training safely in cold weather by following the above recommendations.