The sun is slowly starting to disappear over the horizon earlier and earlier every night, the days are getting slowly but surely quieter, and when you go outside, there’s a distinct chill in the air. This can only mean one thing: winter is on its way!
The cold, icy winter month can make it harder to want to venture outside for your regular training schedule -- and way more appealing to just stay indoors and relax in the warmth. But just because the rest of the world is slowing down doesn’t mean that you have to! While cold-weather training is a whole different beast than hitting a workout during the summer, a little bit of preparation goes a long way. Here’s what you need to know about training during the winter so that you don’t have to slow your roll or halt your progress.
Keep an eye on weather conditions.
This might go without saying, but it’s important enough that it bears a reminder: the biggest difference between training during the winter and the summer is, unsurprisingly, the steep changes in temperature. Unlike training during warmer, more pleasant months, when you can usually just grab your training shoes and head out the door, you’ll need to pay extra attention to the weather reports in your area once the temperatures start dropping. The last thing you want is to get caught up in a deep freeze or slushy, dangerous conditions!
Besides just checking the temperature on your weather app, you’ll also want to consider:
- Checking for ice and frost warnings, which can impact your training if you’re going to be running or cycling on the road
- Watching the wind chill in addition to the ambient temperature, which can make it seem even colder than it already is
- Keeping an eye out for any flash floods, rain showers, or other dangerous storms
If you’re concerned about your gear and equipment (for example, if you don’t want to get your expensive racing cycle dinged up by the elements), consider investing in less-expensive equipment that you can use during inclement weather so you don’t have to put a pause in your training schedule.
Know when to take your workout indoors.
Similarly, you should always have a backup plan lined up in case Mother Nature decides that it’s not a great day to take your workout outside. Make some contingency plans in case it gets way too cold and/or dangerous to go outside. For example, if you were planning on running, head to the gym instead to take advantage of a treadmill or an indoor track. Similarly, cyclers can head to the gym for the stationary bike (or invest in one for your own home) if conditions aren’t ideal for an outdoor ride. Having alternatives in mind means no excuses for continuing your training -- and since consistency is the key to superior fitness, this is a good thing!
When it comes to training during the winter, having the right gear is crucial for staying warm and healthy. And the key here for optimum comfort and functionality? Layers!
- You’ll want to wear lightweight clothes made out of moisture-wicking materials like polypropylene, silk, or wool for your base layer. This will ensure that your sweat is drawn away from your body, keeping you dry, warm, and comfortable. You’ll want to avoid fabrics that absorb moisture, like cotton.
- Insulated middle layers will help keep you warm during your workout no matter how cold out it is. Fleece, wool, and down are all good options here.
- Waterproof, windproof outer layers will top off your outfit and minimize excess chill from wind and/or moisture in the air.
In addition to your clothes, you may also need protective gear like scarves, hats, gloves, and socks to keep your extremities warm.
When you have all four pieces of the puzzle, you can take layers off or put them back on depending on what the weather conditions are like and how much heat you expel during your workout.
Check your shoes.
If you’re walking or running, you’ll want to make sure that your shoes are winter-weather appropriate. Two things to consider here: you want your shoes to have some grip to them, so that you can stay stable on your feet even under questionable conditions like mud or snow, and you’ll also want them to be waterproof so that your feet stay dry even if you end up splashing around in wet conditions. A good example of a suitable winter running shoe would be the Hoka One Challenger Low GTX, which comes with both a waterproof Gore-Tex waterproof layer and sticky lugs for various challenging terrains.
Check in with your breathing.
Cold, icy air can be really hard on your mouth, nose, and lungs, which can lead to painful irritation when you’re breathing hard during cardiovascular workouts like running and cycling. One option for easing the irritation is to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, rather than the other way around. If it’s super cold out, you might also consider using a scarf or bandana over your mouth for more warmth.
The good news: winter workouts come with major benefits.
Taking an entire season off can really mess with your progress, especially if you’re looking to improve your cardiovascular fitness and endurance. Figuring out how to maintain a regular training schedule despite the weather will help you be more prepared for sports, endurance events, and more come springtime.
Keeping your training up during cold weather can also be an advantage for your overall performance. For example, one study found that athletes showed a higher VO2max (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise) in moderately cold temperatures! To take advantage of this, make sure to give your body plenty of opportunities to warm up before getting into your more intense exercises.
One last thing: Keep HOTSHOT on hand to avoid cramping.
Muscle cramps can strike endurance athletes at any time, whether it’s the middle of the summer or the dead of winter. Using HOTSHOT For Muscle Cramping and HOTSHOT For Muscle Soreness on hand can help prevent those painful muscle spasms and subsequent soreness after a long workout so that nothing -- weather or otherwise -- gets in the way of your training schedule.
Your quest for greatness doesn’t have to stop just because the days are getting shorter and colder. With the right prep, you can tackle your winter training just as hard as you do during the warmer months so that once spring rolls around, you’re better prepared for whatever physical activities life throws your way.
If you’re really looking to take your workout to the next level, HOTSHOT for Muscle Cramps and HOTSHOT for Muscle Soreness are both uniquely designed to prevent and treat muscle cramps and reduce next-day soreness even after your most intense workouts.
Featured image credit: Photo by S Migaj: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-jogging-on-road-4252477/