Health & Fitness

How To Train Safely In Cold Weather?

While being out and about is very normal in the summer, things change drastically in the winter. Things like diving, surfing or just chilling on the waterfront are usually out of question. However, winter does provide a different and unique landscape for outdoor activities. However, the cold temperatures need to be managed. In this post, we will talk about safe training in cold weather. Let’s get started.

How To Combat Cold And Keep Training

What is “cold”?

Humans are homeothermic animals, we need to keep our body temperature constant within very narrow limits. Outside of these, physiology reacts to keep the internal organs warm. Therefore, doing an outdoor activity in the cold is putting extra stress on the body. But what is cold? Doctors define the “neutral thermal zone” as the maximum gradient (difference between skin and air temperature) over which the body can maintain its temperature without any physiological reaction. The neutral thermal zone ends at its lower limit above 28.5 ºC. In physiological terms, an outside temperature of 28 °C is cold.

Of course, nobody would think of going for a run on a sunny morning of 28ºC with a jacket. What’s more, at a temperature of 7 ºC running with a jacket can mean that you suffocate after five minutes. Energy expenditure, the amount of subcutaneous fat, gender, age or equipment means that the body does not detect the outside temperature as a physiological stressor that affects thermoregulation. But at a certain temperature, all of our skin thermoreceptors fire, and then a series of physiological changes begin that alter performance and sports execution. This information was released via a study published in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine for NFL (American football) games held in temperatures below 10ºC.

The truth is that American football is technically not a winter sport, and this information is only a brushstroke. In general, outdoor activities can be carried out in cold environments as long as the appropriate measures are taken… up to a certain point. For example, the International Ski Federation suspends the holding of cross-country skiing events when -20ºC is recorded at one of the points on the route. For UEFA, minus 15ºC is enough for the football match not to take place.

What are the negative effects of cold on your body?

Blood circulation

Cold affects the ability of the circulatory system to transport oxygen to the muscles, the ability to burn energy and maintain body temperature, the neuromuscular system, and the psychological capacities required for activity (cognitive function, motivation, or resistance to pain). Muscles need heat to function optimally, with cold the capacity for contraction and its speed are reduced.

Oxygen consumption

With intense cold, oxygen consumption increases, both in the middle of an activity or during rest periods, to produce greater metabolic heat, according to a study published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Of course, the metabolic response to cold depends on whether a person is acclimated to cold climates, on their race, gender, or age.

Decision making

In addition to triggering metabolism, cold can affect visual acuity, alertness and reflexes, so decision-making during outdoor activity in the severe cold may not always be the best. The cold also reduces the capacity of resistance. A race accessible to most cross-country competitors at -5ºC, it can only be finished by 16% when held in a range of −18 to −28 ◦C due to tremendous fatigue.


Cold reduces the contraction capacity of the muscles, which reduces strength, and in the case of the lower body, coordination, posture and balance. And as if that were not enough, practicing a sport with cold and dry air causes large losses of water through breathing, which results in bronchospasms, wheezing, coughing, a feeling of tightness in the chest, increased respiratory rate and excessive mucus.

What are the positive effects of cold on your body?

But going out to play sports on cold winter days also has its advantages.

Raise your spirits

During the winter there are fewer daylight hours and less vitamin D production, which causes a kind of winter blues. Cardiovascular activity releases endorphins and increases serotonin levels in the brain, which, according to researchers at Duke University, is four times more effective in reducing the symptoms of depression than medication.

Immunity boosting

Cold is a stressor for metabolism but also a trigger for the production of adrenaline, which awakens the immune system. A study conducted by the Mayo Foundation indicates that regular exercise outside in cold weather reduces the risk of susceptibility to the flu by 25%.

Cardiovascular improvement

Cardiovascular activity increases with cold, which reduces the possibility of heart disease

lose weight We have already seen that the metabolism is triggered by the cold. The need to maintain body temperature causes the body to burn its stores of brown fat.

Increased performance

The respiratory stress to which the body is subjected when sports are practiced in winter acclimatizes the lungs to use oxygen more efficiently, which results in greater sports performance in warm temperatures.

Cold weather training tips

Drink a lot of water 

With cold, a lot of water is lost, either by sweating, breathing or diuresis. The problem is that you don’t feel as thirsty, 40% less than in the summer to be exact. During vascular constriction, the hormone arginine-vasopressin is released, which regulates fluids, but also causes a decrease in the sensation of thirst. The rule is to drink two glasses of liquid (better hot infusion) for every hour of exercise.

Eat carbs

In a day of skiing, you can burn more than 2000 calories without doing too much, and having glycogen stores ready can be very important. Before exercising, it is a good idea to eat a breakfast rich in protein and carbohydrates. During practice, some energy bars or a handful of pistachios will help replenish reserves. And after the day outdoors, a few servings of banana and yogurt will optimize recovery and muscle function.

Equip yourself properly

The range of sports and activities that can be practiced in winter is so wide and diverse that giving advice on equipment is difficult. Football players heading to games these days, even with the effects of Polar Storm Elliot, will don neoprene scuba vests and smear Vaseline over their faces to keep out the icy wind.

A good measure is not to dress excessively, so as not to feel cold at rest, but then, during activity, sweat excessively. The fundamental thing is to invest in a good first thermal, breathable layer, and wear a windbreaker.

The gloves are better waterproof, and protect the hands from the sensation of cold and frostbite. These can occur in less than 30 minutes of being exposed to the elements. And on the feet breathable socks.

A neck tube will heat a large amount of blood that passes superficially to feed the brain. If it also covers the mouth and nose, to retain moisture and heat in the breath, the better. Finishing off with a good hat to protect the head.

Warm up before exercise

A study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance in 2021 on a youth ski team, points out that combined active (cycling) and passive (thermal garments on the legs) warm-up improves performance at temperatures of -7ºC.

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