Fitness Training in Cold Weather

So the weather has dropped significantly here in Kelowna over the last week. And I’m sure the rest of Canada is calling us weak for complaining about the weather when we have some of the mildest weathers in the country.

But if we didn’t talk and occasionally complain about the weather we really wouldn’t be Canadian, would we?

And before we either settle in for a complete season of hibernation or rush straight to continue our outdoor training there are a few things to consider with outdoor training in the winter.

1. Lower Relative Humidity

When the mercury drops the cold air can hold less water and relative humidity drops. There is then a greater likelihood that we will lose water from our cells as a result to this difference. As a result we have to make sure to drink enough water prior to training and to continue to hydrate during exercise. Typically we only think to hydrate in warmer temperatures and forget to do so during the winter. Be aware of the increased need as a result of changes in humidity.

2. Nasal Breathing

I remember when I was going to grad school in Regina riding my bike to the lab in the winter. It would be -35 C out and your extremities would be so cold. It would take forever for my toes, ears and nose to thaw out. And even though it was painfully cold you could only ride so fast. The reason you couldn’t just sprint was that the air was so cold you couldn’t inhale through your mouth and warm the air enough. It would reach you lungs still cold and feel as though pneumonia was inevitable.

When you venture out in cold temperatures make sure to control your breathing enough so that you can in inhale mostly through your nose and minimize oral breathing.

3. Lighting

A few weeks ago I had the desire to go for a run. No need to judge. Sometimes it happens. Anyways it was a Sunday around noon and I headed into the gym first to work on a few things. By the time I headed out for the run it was after 3 pm. I ran for about an hour and it was dark by the time I finished.

Keep this mind when you head out for your winter training. Not only is it harder to see potholes and other obstacles in the dark it’s also harder for traffic to see you as well..

4. Friction

Usually friction is something  we try to avoid but when it comes to staying upright and not falling it is essential. If you are a fan of going for a cold weather run make sure to be careful on slopes where your base of support may not be right under your centre of mass increasing the chance of a fall. Wear soft soled shoes that may do a better job of gripping the snow or better yet invest in some ice cleats that slide over your regular running shoes.

5. BAT

If you’re a fan of swimming you’ll know who Michael Phelps is and what he looks like. And you may have also heard of the number of calories he eats per day. The number was apparently upwards of 10,000, or more, per day. Many skeptics pointed to the number of calories you burn when swimming and explained how there  was no way he could eat this much and not be 300 lbs.

What these doubters failed to include in their calculations was the calories burned from shivering in the water. This helps activate brown fat, or brown adipose tissue, which is helpful to keep us warm as when we shiver. And since it requires more oxygen than white fat it’s a great way to burn extra calories during our traditional workouts.

6. SAD

With the longer days of darkness or lack of sunlight many people claim to suffer from SAD or seasonal affective disorder. While a mid-winter trip somewhere warm can do wonders to top up our vitamin D levels this might not be reasonable for many. Recent research has found that short, intense bursts of exercise can help mitigate the effects of SAD. Throw in 60 seconds of prisoner squats or 20 Burpees or 200 turns of a jump rope once or twice during the day to off-set the winter blahs.

What about you? Do you do anything differently when it comes to training during the winter months?

Chris [fb-like]





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