Most triathletes don't live in the Arctic, in Siberia or near a frigid, icy pole. Nonetheless, many of us do live in climates where heading out the door for winter triathlon training in a T-shirt and shorts is a recipe for frostbite.
If you're a cold-weather athlete, follow these five practical tips for training in the cold so you can avoid those long, uninspiring indoor sessions.
#1 Start With A Short Loop
Sure, you've heard the advice that when you head out the door for a winter workout you should dress like it's 10 to 15 degrees warmer than it actually is. The problem with this approach is that you're cold and uncomfortable for the first 10 to 15 minutes of your workout.
Instead, bundle up, begin your workout with a short warm-up loop, such as a few trips around the block or a quick out-and-back, then dump the extra clothes inside your front door and head out to finish the rest of your workout.
#2 Burn More Calories With Cold
If you're exercising for fat loss, you can actually burn a few more fat calories through cold thermogenesis by allowing your body to get just a bit chilly during your session. However, your body will actually down regulate your metabolism if "crucial" areas get cold, specifically your hands, feet, face and crotch. So make sure those crucial areas are insulated, but don't be shy to shiver just a bit and keep a lighter layer on your torso and legs.
#3 Get Good Lights
It gets darker earlier in the winter, and there's nothing quite so frustrating as a dim headlamp or bike light. So splurge a little, or get creative with your Christmas wish list, and go for something with a lot of lumen. Most triathlon and running forums are chock full of practical recommendations for lights that really hold up and illuminate the path. I use the Petzl brand for running and MagicShine for cycling.
#4 Use Insulated Water Bottles
You still perspire significantly in the cold, and there's nothing more frustrating during a winter mountain bike ride or long snowy jaunt than getting thirsty, trying to take a sip, and getting nothing but ice. Fill an insulated water bottle (Polar brand works well) with slightly warm water and you won't run the risk of dehydration, or being forced to eat snow.
#5 Hide The Candy
Due to lower bioavailability of Vitamin D and the hormone DHEA in cold and dark months, your body tends to gain fat and become more inflamed with carbohydrate consumption. But if that bag of M&M's is on the kitchen counter when you get in from a chilly outdoor workout, you're bound to indulge.
Instead, keep higher-fat or higher-protein snacks on hand for winter workouts, such as pumpkin seeds with sea salt, raw almonds mixed with coconut flakes, or even nut butter blended with coconut oil. These fats will give you good sustained energy without doing as much harm to your health or waistline.
Now that you know how to approach winter triathlon training, it's time to put on the long underwear and head outdoors. Have fun!
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