Posted On:
Tuesday, January 11, 2022
Updated On:
Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Coach Tip Tuesday: The Cold Never Bothered You Anyway

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Sunlight beams through a forest of trees on newly fallen snow.

January is in full swing, which means cooler temperatures for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere.  While those of us from the northeastern United States might chuckle at our pals in Florida who feel “cold” when it’s 55ºF outside, each and every one of us will experience “cold for us” temperatures during this month and through the Winter season.

These cooler temperatures can be intimidating when it comes to getting workouts completed outside, but we can overcome that intimidation!  Getting outside increases our levels of serotonin, which is a mood-stabilizing hormone.  Yes, indeed, getting outside for a workout can really transform your entire day and help you manage things at work a little more smoothly and navigate your social interactions with more patience; this is especially true if you are able to get outside when it’s light outside.  Even indirect sunlight exposure (i.e. through cloud cover) helps increase the production of this important hormone.

I’ve talked before about how obsessing over the weather isn’t a mental practice that will serve you well, how it’s great to embrace that weather conditions will rarely be ideal, and that weather forecasts should be taken with a grain of salt.  And while all of those things are true, I’m here this week to offer some more practical tips on how to make the most of training in cooler (or even snowy!) weather conditions.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Thank you for your support!

Invest in Quality Gear

Exactly what gear will depend on what region you live in and what sports you participate in, but some suggestions that can be used for activities like cycling, running, and cross-country skiing are:

  • Gloves (They even make heated ones now!)
  • Hat/Headband
  • Warm Socks (They make heated versions of these, too!)
  • Waterproof Shoes
  • YakTrax
  • A Vest or Jacket
  • Wind-Resistant Tights or Pants
  • A Buff

Quality gear will keep you warm and last a long time.  Staying warm (and dry!) is one way to help make the cooler months seem less intimidating.  You don’t need to have a lot of everything; just a few quality items does the trick.  You can wash and reuse them throughout the season (and since you invested in quality items, they will hold up with those wearing and washing cycles).

Complete a Proper Warm-Up

In my humble opinion, Warm-Ups are one of the most underrated components of workouts.  Warm-Ups help us get ready to do the work in the workout itself by gradually getting the body’s systems (such as the Muscular System, Circulatory System, and Respiratory System) prepared for that load.  However, they often don’t get a lot of “press” because they are often slow, unexciting, and monotonous.

I write Warm-Ups for every athlete I coach.  The specifics of the Warm-Ups vary based on the sport and the athlete’s fitness level (as well as their injury history), but I often include strength and mobility exercises as part of a Warm-Up.  This increases one’s heart rate, core temperature, and blood flow to the muscles.  All of this minimizes the stress the body undergoes when an athlete asks it to work hard in challenging (i.e. cold) conditions.  

Doing a Dynamic Warm-Up that includes some strength and mobility exercises that activate different muscle groups in the body will warm your body up so that the cold doesn’t feel quite so cold anymore, especially if you do a Warm-Up indoors!  You’ll get heated up enough that going outside might feel downright refreshing.

Ten Minutes

Tell yourself that you only need to do ten minutes of your workout.  Just ten measly little minutes.  You can do anything for ten minutes!  If, at the end of that ten minutes, you feel like everything is terrible and doing the workout was the worst idea of your life, feel free to stop, head home, and make a nice cup of hot cocoa.  But get going just for ten minutes.  Once you get through ten minutes, chances are you’ll already be feeling the effects of that serotonin and will be feeling inspired to keep going.

Set Yourself Up for Indoors

There will be days when you either don’t feel like going outside or when weather conditions are actually severe enough that going outside isn’t the greatest idea.  Having a solid indoor plan at the ready is great for times like these.

For runners, this means finding access to a treadmill (either at home or at a gym) or access to an indoor track.  For cyclists, this means finding a way to ride inside (a bike trainer is a great investment for athletes who live in colder climates).  For swimmers, getting access to a pool is key.

I’ve talked in the past about how something is better than nothing, and this is no exception.  If getting outside really isn’t your jam or in the cards, then come up with a plan that works for you to get your workouts done inside.  Having this in place ahead of time will reduce the friction that it takes to get started on a workout once the crummy weather hits, which will leave less room for excuses to yourself about why you’re not getting a workout in.

Building on this, if getting an indoor version of your favorite outdoor exercise isn’t something you’re willing to do, it may be time to consider alternative movement/exercise activities during the Winter months. The Winter season can be a great time to explore season-specific activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and fat biking in the snow, but it also can be a time to try new-to-you activities. Maybe you can check out a yoga studio or a climbing gym. Perhaps strength training might seem more digestible to you in this season. Whatever inspires you to keep moving…do that!

The Bottom Line

Truly, with few exceptions, the weather conditions in the Winter are likely much worse in your mind than they are in reality.  You don’t need to feel good to get going; get going, and give yourself the chance to feel good, whether you choose to exercise outdoors or indoors.  Don’t shy from this season; prepare for it.  The cold never bothered you anyway. ❄️️

About

Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at laura@fullcircleendurance.com.

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