Even the most dedicated sports people can be deterred by the weather at this time of year. For those of us with slightly less motivation than a Sochi gold medallist the poor (and very imaginative conditions) that winter can throw at us is enough to get us stashing our training gear away, along with our summer outfits. Cold, wet or wintry weather shouldn’t however deter you from staying fit, staying motivated and keeping warm and dry (ish) whatever the winter chooses to throw at you. Preparation is, in this case, the better part of valour.
Once the preserve of individuals found at the end of piers, equipped with a crystal balls, the art of weather forecasting has become considerably more refined in recent years. In fact, accurate, detailed weather forecasts are easily available and extremely accurate. The met office is a great source for detailed and highly localised weather reports and you should pay attention to these. Check the forecast for the times you plan to train paying close attention to wind speed, temperature, rain/snow and wind chill factors. The last factor is especially important for outdoor training as an extreme wind chill factor will mean that clothing may be less effective. High quality training gear will guard against the cold but even with good quality gear wind can penetrate. Cold weather is exacerbated by the wind chill and this can be the most dangerous climatic condition when it comes to an outdoor workout. In the most severe conditions it’s wise to consider an indoor rather than outdoor training session. During severe rain and snow you’ll need highly waterproof gear – getting wet will help with the cooling process and in the winter this can lead to your core temperature dropping to dangerous levels.
Frostbite, Hypothermia and Webbed feet
Frostbite and hypothermia are not conditions that most of us face when training in the UK but they can be a problem for those who train in certain parts of the country or whose regime includes more extreme terrain. Mountaineers, fell-runners and those exercising outdoors in remote locations need to be aware of frostbite in severe winter conditions and hypothermia can strike even in more civilised regions during prolonged exposure to cold conditions. Frostbite is caused by freezing and normally occurs on exposed skin; this can include the face or hands in particular, with bodily extremities being the most prone. Both loss of feeling or stinging are the signs of frostbite and should not be ignored; where possible finding shelter or getting inside away from the cold is essential. Slowly warm the affected area (quickly heating or rubbing will make the damage worse). Hypothermia is caused by a low body temperature and is possible in extreme conditions including very cold and very wet weather. Signs include loss of coordination, fatigue and extreme shivering; getting warm quickly and also seeking emergency help are essential this case. Given the emphasis on flooding this winter the webbed feet issue is worth considering – or rather the dangers from both flash and prolonged flooding. Flooded areas on your usual routes should be avoided, fast flowing water needs only to be a foot deep to take you off your feet and should not be risked. “Strong swimmers” account for the majority of those drowned in floods, so a good level of general fitness and abilities in the pool are no protection in flooded areas.
Feeling the Heat, then the Cold, then the Heat Again
Wrapping up warm in cold conditions seems to make sense, whether nipping out for a paper or nipping out for a run. One big mistake when training in cold weather is to wrap up too warm; layers are the best approach (as ever). While exercise generates plenty of heat our bodies regulate this by sweating keeping us, hopefully, at the right temperature. Layers of high quality training gear are the ideal solution for cold weather training, allowing you to remove or replace layers as your body temperature changes. For longer outdoor expeditions in cold weather a series of lightweight layers is ideal and for those venturing into extreme environments it’s worth carrying a change of (warm/dry) clothing in the event of an emergency. Surprisingly, perhaps because of the cost, good quality, high performance workout gear is not always a priority for everyone. However, quality online sports gear suppliers can offer great deals on training kits and the role that the right clothing plays in effective, motivated training sessions shouldn’t be overlooked.
So there you have it some Olympic Winter Training Sessions.