Thermodynamic Burn = Cold Weather Sprints

So a few weeks ago I did a Saturday workout with some friends. And normally this wouldn’t be reason to write a blog post but this time was a little different. It was different because we did them in the cold with minimal clothing. And by minimal clothing I mean shorts and shoes, t-shirts optional.

How cold you may be wondering? It was -2 C with a slight wind.

Now we didn’t start the workout this way. Here’s the protocol we used.

General Warm-up – 10 minute easy jog fully geared up. At this point I was wearing a toque, sweats, gloves, a jacket…basically lots of layers. Specifically performance gear that moves and breathes.

Movement Prep – 10 minutes of dynamic movements in a variety of planes and directions. I was still wearing all the gear from above at this point.

20 Second Conditioning Sets – This involves 20 seconds of six different movement you flow through from one to the next until each has been completed. This works out to a 2 minute set. Because there are 6 changes from one movement to the next you need to overcome inertia each time. This is part of what makes the drill so difficult. It’s similar to going for a run and having to stop for traffic lights. It is much easier to continue running than to come to a complete stop and then initiate movement again from a standstill.

Length of the Field – The last drill involved running the length of a soccer field, dropping to do 10 push ups then jogging back. The run heading out had to be completed in less than 20 seconds and the return in less than 30 seconds. Upon returning to the starting position you rest 30 seconds then repeat for the prescribed number of sets.

It was during this last drill we all stripped down. For the first five reps we wore shoes, shorts and t-shirts. And for the last 5 we ditched the shirts.

But it wasn’t that bad. The worst part was sprinting to the opposite end of the field. That was when we were most aware of the cold weather.

So why did we do this? Aren’t we at risk at getting sick?

Well the reason for doing this was to simulate a cold weather response and burn additional calories. When we think of the word thermodynamics usually only the motion part of the equation is considered.

For example when people talk about weight gain they’ll say ‘your intake (calories consumed) was greater than your ouput’ (sum total of all physical efforts.

But this definition is too simple. It ignores the fact that the word, thermodynamics, has two parts to it. ‘Thermo’ and ‘dynamic‘. We are attributing the calories we burn to movement only. But there are also heat calories lost. In this case of cold weather sprints we burn additional calories as we shiver to stay warm.

It’s too soon yet to say how effective this will be for us. But one thing’s for sure. It was definitely a rush. And it was motivating to not stand around wasting time between sets.

And the question about getting sick? I don’t mean to recommend this to anyone who already is fatigued or on the verge of being sick. But for those with a strong immune system and are up for the challenge give it a try. Just make sure to wear multiple layers and gradually ditch them as you warm up. Each day will be slightly different weather so decide what to wear based on how you feel.

Lastly, make sure to bundle up as soon as the last rep is completed. When the last rep is completed your temperature will drop quickly and won’t recover if movement ceases.


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