Train Well: Training & Exercise Tips

Cold Weather Training Tips: Part II

Published: November 14th, 2012
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Authored by: Dr. Prisk

In Part 1 of Cold Weather Training  the effects of cold weather activities and the risk of injury were discussed. Part II focuses on overtraining and tips for training in the cold.


Proper clothing is essential to surviving cold weather training. The goal is to avoid heat loss that causes constriction of blood vessels and shivering which can significantly affect athletic performance. The constriction of blood vessels results in a loss of nutrient supply to muscles and shivering increases energy output and oxygen consumption leading to more rapid fatigue. Hats, gloves, thicker socks, Gortex shoes, and insulated jackets and pants are required.

Increasing winds and decreasing temperature are a bad combination and require more
insulation.  Conversely, high intensity sporting activities that significantly increase core body temperature may require less protective clothing to avoid hypothermia.

One of the biggest mistakes is continuing to wear clothes that get wet in the cold. This causes an increase in evaporative heat loss and a more rapid decline in body temperature. In fact, the convective heat loss in cold water is so rapid it can catch a polar bear club swimmers off guard and be deadly.

Another tip which can avoid problems with cold weather training is to avoid over training.  Over training can result in loss of muscle and fat with an inability to consume enough calories to keep up with exertion. When energy requirements are harder to meet because of cold weather responses like shivering, it is important to add sports supplements with added protein and carbohydrates to your diet.

GNC Pro Performance ProCrunch Bars have 34g of carbs and 16g of protein to help you keep your energy supplies up or AMP Muscle Meal contains a blend of protein and carbs to fuel your intense workouts.


When glycogen stores are low, the shivering response may also be impaired and lead to dangerous amounts of heat loss. Consuming carbohydrate during endurance training is essential to avoid hypoglycemia. Sleep is also affected by over training which effects recovery and causes detrimental effects to your body’s ability to maintain thermal regulation.

With the long winter nights and changes in the circadian rhythm sometimes sleep aids such as melatonin supports restful sleep to maximize your recovery time. Just as important as in warm weather training hydration is very important and requires some discipline to drink in the winter air. Use a thermal bottle to avoid having a bottle of ice!

Before training in cold weather find out what the wind chill temperature index is going to be for that day. Wind chill temperature index takes into consideration that convective heat loss increases with increased wind speeds.

Wind chill temperatures of -28 to -35deg C can cause frostbite with only 10-30 minutes of exposure. Temperatures of -36 to 45deg C can cause frostbite in only 5-10 minutes of exposure. Extreme temperatures less than -45deg C can cause frostbite in 2 minutes or less!

Cold weather sports can be a lot of fun. Make sure you progress your activities slowly and avoid excessive risks that can lead to musculoskeletal injuries and thus a visit to your local orthopaedic surgeon. Be aware of the Wind Chill Temperature Index and avoid extreme conditions.

What is your favorite outdoor winter activity?


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