It’s that time of year when summer sandals surrender their spot in the closet to winter boots. Salads made from your (neighbor’s) garden are done for the year and your Pinterest board of carefully curated stew recipes is about to get some attention. But what does the coming winter transition mean for your training regimen? Winter certainly has its challenges, but also its rewards for the dedicated athlete. We’ve put together some helpful tips and encouraging pointers that help us not just endure winter training, but love it!
- Burn more calories! – Yes, you read that right. Your body is better at temperature regulation in cold weather, meaning you can, in theory at least, train harder and longer. This means you’ll be able to burn more total calories.
- Don’t go straight to the gym – Yes, there are places where some winter days are just not safe for a run. But just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean you have to take the training indoors. Conquering the cold can give you a sense of accomplishment. It also teaches your body to work through different sensations that can help you focus on some neglected basics—breathing due to the cold sting, foot placement due to icy patches, etc.
- Stay Hydrated! – Many people, even seasoned athletes, assume that you sweat less running or cycling on a cold day rather than a hot day. This isn’t necessarily true. Don’t ignore your hydration needs. Plan to hydrate the same for a cold January run as you do for a hot June outing. And listen to your body. Those headaches and signs of fatigue that warn of dehydration in summer mean the same thing in winter.
- Again, listen to your body – Your body will tell you more than the temperature and that it’s thirsty. Pay attention to how you feel. Many of us are more susceptible to illness in the winter months with colds or crud caught from all that extra indoor time with family and coworkers. If you feel bad, back off for a while. Also, while you train in the cold, pay attention to any numbness in your extremities. A numb or less reflexive foot or leg can lead to injury.
- Cross-train! – Inevitably, you will spend more time in the gym this winter than you have in the summer. Take advantage. We just talked about how runners and cyclists can benefit from swimming—find a gym or fitness center with an indoor pool and get to it! Don’t spend much time weight training in the summer? Now’s the time. Winter is a great season to give some extra attention to those activities we sometimes ignore when the great outdoors are constantly calling.
- Dress for success – You’ve got to keep warm without overheating. It can be tricky and will depend on lots of variables: sun exposure, time of day, duration/intensity of the workout, and so on. Wear thin layers you can adjust as needed. Definitely wear a hat. Moisture-wicking fabrics are great. Remember, you’re going to sweat and three cotton shirts are going to leave you wet and cold!
What do you do differently in winter than in summer? Are there any summer shortcomings you make up for in winter, such as focusing more on form, preparing for specific events, etc.? We’d love to hear about it. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And remember, as much as we wish they did, muscle cramps don’t hibernate. If you cramp in summer training, you’ll likely cramp in winter training. Pick up your supply of HOTSHOT here. Take it before you train to prevent cramps. Take it with you to stop cramps should they show up. Train on, winter warrior.