If your training schedule requires you to continue training outdoors during the cold winter months it is of paramount importance that you take care of your health while doing so. Nobody wants to remain focused and dedicated to an exercise regime only to become ill and have to take time off. The cold and dreary weather can discourage even the most motivated athletes, but you don’t have to let it spell the end of your training season. Instead of packing away your workout gear and piling on a few pounds for ‘winter insulation’ get a head start on your beach body for next year!
Below are some tips to help you stay healthy during outdoor winter training so that you can maximise your progression!
There are certain conditions which can be aggravated by the cold weather so if you suffer from any of the following you should consult a doctor before beginning winter outdoor training.
- Heart problems
- Joint pain
- Sore throat
- Chesty cough
Layer Upon Layer
One of the biggest mistakes made by those exercising outdoors in winter is to wear heavy winter jackets and coats in a bid to stay warm. The issue with this is that because exercise generates a lot of heat, you are in danger of becoming too hot during your workout and doing more harm than good! The ideal way to dress for outdoor winter training is to wear relatively thin layers which can easily be removed during exercise.
The layer closest to your skin should be a synthetic material (such as polypropylene) which helps to draw sweat away from the surface of your skin. Avoid cotton garments as they tend to become wet with sweat and stick to your skin which leaves you vulnerable to catching a chill. The second layer should be a thin fleece or wool jumper which will help to keep your core temperature warm but not excessively so. On top of this you should have nothing more than a thin, breathable waterproof jacket. Avoid anything heavier as it will seal in the heat and will be detrimental to both your training and your health.
You may wish to slightly adjust the layers above dependent on your weight and body composition. Ensure that you are more wary of what you are wearing if you are planning to perform interval training outdoors this winter. The constant rapid changes of temperature causing overheating and then a chill can leave you vulnerable to illness if you do not monitor it closely.
Protect Your Extremities
When our body is subjected to a cold environment, blood flow is concentrated at the core of our bodies to protect our vital organs which leaves our hands, feet and ears vulnerable to frostbite.
To ensure that your hands remain at optimum temperature, my advice would be to wear two layers of gloves. A thin glove with a thicker wool or fleece glove over the top of this. Apply the gloves before you leave the house to ensure that your hands have not already been subjected to the cold before you cover them up. By wearing two layers, you can easily remove the outer layer if your hands become too clammy without exposing your skin to harsh winds and freezing temperatures.
When preparing for winter training you may want to take into consideration that you may want to layer up on the socks. Therefore, buying shoes which are a ½ or full size too big may be worth an investment. The space will allow you to wear thick thermal socks and avoid having frost bitten toes. It is very easy for feet to become cold during training, which can lead to a burning/pins and needles sensation. If this happens you will need to bring a stop to training.
Last but not least, ensure you invest in a warm headband/hat/ear muffs. Personally, I would opt for a headband or ear muffs above a hat as the important thing is to protect the ears and hats may cause you to overheat. If this happens and you have to remove your hat you leave your ears vulnerable to frostbite. You may also find that cool winds whipping by your ears will give you a headache.
The odds are that it will be dark when you need to train (there is only ~ 9 hours of daylight at the moment) so reflective gear or clothes with a small light on them will help drivers and other people to notice you. It is particularly important if you are a runner and your route is close to roads.
Hydration is highly important to any athlete, but it can be much easier to overlook it in the winter than when you train during the hot months. The intake of water is vital to the chemical reactions that occur in the body to utilise energy, aid muscle repair and prevent damage to cardiovascular, skeletal and digestive systems. It helps your body to remain in a state of homeostasis which includes the regulation of body temperature. Opt for an isotonic sports drink when training exceeds 90 minutes to help replenish electrolytes and fluid lost through sweat.
Knowledge Is Power
Spotting the early signs of frostbite and hypothermia can help protect you against doing any serious damage to your health.
Early onset symptoms of frostbite include numbness and a stinging sensation.
Early onset symptoms to watch out for which could mean you are hypothermic are intense shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination and extreme fatigue.