As endurance athletes much of our training is naturally outdoors. This rocks in summer but can be less fun in the hail, rain and slush of winter. But with these surefire tips from the world's best winter performers cold weather training can be transformed
This is a huge bonus and a great free performance upgrade, because more winter training consistency means better race results next season. Even if training frequency and volume decrease, consistency is all and keeping any game going through the colder, darker months is exponentially better than no game at all.
Embrace winter and get after it, all with the added bonus your favourite training spots and routes are now all yours as everyone else hides indoors getting slow
Cold weather training tip #1: 'Be bold, start cold'
This one's from the Royal Marines and is one of their cold weather training mantras. It's a brilliantly simple way to improve your training and racing when the weather's not so hot.
In practice, what this means is kitting up to be a comfortable working temperature 10-15 minutes into your session, as opposed to kitting up to be comfortable at the start.
Know that those first few minutes as the body warms up are going to be chilly, and simply roll with it.
Then as your inner fire builds up and stabilises there's no need to suddenly strip off a load of useless layers which you now need to carry around until you're done.
Polar bears - cold weather aces and not carrying any unnecessary layers
Cold weather training tip #2: 'Two is one, one is none'
Courtesy of former US Navy Seal Jocko Willink, this one's all about preparation and means that unless you have two backups of anything that matters, you actually have nothing - if that first one fails, you're stuffed.
What does this mean for your cold weather training?
Simply that you need backup plans in your armoury. Because while being bold and starting cold works a treat while you're moving, it goes south fast when you stop. Put multiple plans in place to deal with any unexpected forced stop at the wrong point which could, literally, leave you out in the cold.
Worst case examples include twisting an ankle at the farthest point on your run from home/civilisation, a major bike mechanical in the same sort of place and so on.
Not the time to realise your phone battery's out...
Backup options to add include:
- Lightweight warm layers: base layers, hats, gloves and lightweight shell jackets all fit the bill here. Stash in a run pack or bike shirt, remember to pack in a plastic bag if rains likely. Wet spare kit = no spare kit
- Transport: money, passes or cards for public transport/cabs where relevant, and a charged mobile to call in the cavalry as needed. A freezer bag makes a great waterproof phone case, just like wet kit, wet mobiles aren't much use
Cold weather training tip #3: The first rule of not getting cold...
Thanks to French ultrarunning legend Sebastien Chaigneau for this one, his quote "the first rule of not getting cold is... don't get cold" may sound daft, but it is in fact a total winter gem.
Because once your teeth are chattering and you're borderline hypothermic it's too late. So when you're out training or racing in the freeze and you feel the cold starting to bite more than you expected once you've warmed up, do something about it there and then - don't wait.
Grab that handy extra base layer/hat/pair of gloves you cleverly stashed thanks to Jocko's advice above, pick up the pace, make that cafe stop, whatever it takes to get back to a good working temperature.
The longer you're going, the more this one matters. Clearly if you'll be home in ten minutes then stopping for an extra layer may be overkill.
Cold weather training tip #4: Turn on the cold tap
Cold showers, plunge pools and ice baths can all sound like so much masochistic nonsense, but the truth is regular cold exposure is brilliant for health and performance on multiple levels, and it can also reduce your own reaction to colder weather.
33Fuel's Warren enjoys an 'ice bath' while sampling training in the Arctic with the Royal Marines. Those aren't ice cubes floating in the water - that hole was cut in a frozen lake and was already trying to freeze over again. For your own cold exposure benefits, you'll be pleased to know a cold shower could be all it takes
Benefits of regular cold exposure include:
- Increased proportion of body fat becomes 'brown fat'. This is the fat that keeps us warm - more brown fat, less cold suffering
- Increased fat burning abilities
- Decreased inflammation
- Improved immune function
- Better sleep and mood
Wim Hof is the man when it comes to harnessing the benefits of cold exposure, and it's a subject that could take up a brace of blog posts on its own.
For now, the quickest - and easiest - way to start enjoying cold exposure's benefits is with your morning shower.
Before jumping out, simply turn the dial all the way to cold and stay right under for 30 seconds while focusing on staying relaxed and breathing.
A lot of our reaction to cold is habit rather than reality. Relaxing and breathing overrides much of this 'habit' which makes us tense and yelp when hit with sudden cold.
Done daily you'll quickly find this cold blast at the end of your shower a revitalising - and maybe even enjoyable - hit, and one that packs a host of free performance benefits that last way beyond winter.
For anyone still thinking this is a really bad idea, it can help to remember it won't actually make you cold as your core temperature won't be changed at all by a short blast of cold water. It's really no more than an outer sensation and a mind game.
Cold weather training tip #5: Fuel the fire
Those hearty fireside Sunday roasts work best in winter for good reason. We burn a lot more calories in the cold.
So remember to keep the fuel flowing in when you're hitting the cold weather work, and be mindful to bring quality to the party alongside quality.
Pile your diet up with as many fresh whole foods as you can. Load soups and stews with veg and herbs, stuff porridge with fresh fruit, add nuts and seeds to anything going.
And when you need fuel for your biggest winter sessions and races, add 33Fuel Pre and Post Workout Shakes for the most powerful hit of performance nutrients from the highest quality sources you'll find anywhere.
When you absolutely, positively need the very best in performance nutrition - the 33 nutritional powerhouse ingredients in 33Fuel's groundbreaking Pre and Post Workout Shakes have you covered. Use for race weekend and your biggest training sessions