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Race Walking > Training

Tips for training in cold weather


One of the great things about walking is that it is both a sport and leisure activity which you can indulge in all year round. Whether the temperature is cold or hot, with some sensible planning, you can still get out there and enjoy your daily training and racing.

Walking in winter, however, may require a certain amount of planning to ensure that you don't end up stuck out in the cold.

There is no air temperature below which exercise is unsafe. Even when the mercury falls well below zero you can safely train outdoors, if you are properly dressed.

Follow these tips to help ensure that your training is not only safe, but enjoyable, too.


Play it safe!

However, on especially cold days the risk of hypothermia is increased even if you are wrapped up appropriately. For example, if you encounter a situation where you are forced to stop your training session far from home (such as muscle cramping, fatigue, etc) your body will produce much less heat and you could be in trouble.

So play it safe on the most coldest of days:
  • avoid straying too far from home
  • don't use unfamiliar routes,
  • carry a mobile phone
  • carry money, travel pass,a credit/debit card with you in case a problem arises.
  • if you don't feel well get inside as quickly as possible.


Before you start
Warm up with proper stretching before you begin your training/race in the cold, and have a good stretch when finished. This is more important in the cold than the heat, because hot weather helps you warm up naturally.

Wear it well
it is important to make some changes to your exercise routine to ensure your well-being and safety during the colder seasons. Think about what you are wearing. How you dress for your training (probably sllightly different from what you may need for racing) can make a great deal of difference.

1. Dress in layers.
Don't pile on all the clothes or even the thickest of tops you can possibly manage to get on to stay warm. You could end up feeling very hot and sweaty which will soon become very cold and sweaty and very uncomfortable.
Wear several thin layers of clothing which will help trap the warm air between each layer keeping you considerably warmer than if you were to wear one heavy layer.
How much clothing should you wear? As a general rule, you should dress so that you are uncomfortably cool but not miserably cold when you first step out of doors and then become comfortable after about 10 minutes of activity as body heat accumulates.

2. Wear the right fabrics.
Proper winter clothing is a good investment: so do invest in a few key garments, particularly the layer that is closest to your bodyskin and the garment that is your outer shell. Be sure your first layer is made of one of the synthetic fabrics that wick away perspiration and let it evaporate. Your outer shell should be made of a breathable, wind-repellent fabric, such as Gore-Tex to let the heat escape, but not let cold winter air enter. Choose garments that have closures over front zippers to keep air and cold rain from leaking through openings and zippers. However, it is useful to have layers which have a zip opening in case you do overheat!
These days there are so many technical clothes on the market designed to keep you cool when its hot and to keep you warm and dry when its cold.
Winter technical clothing is made from breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics that trap just enough but not too much of the heat your working muscles produce against your skin while keeping your skin relatively dry, so that evaporative cooling doesn't chill you. Winter technical clothing is also lighter, allows more freedom of movement, and is easier to layer than other types of clothing so fabric such as polypropylene, capilene, and some wool/synthetic blends wick moisture away from your body and keep you as warm and dry as possible.
Avoid wearing cotton because it doesn't wick moisture and also has very little insulating ability, which will leave you wet, cold and uncomfortable.

3. Wear a protective shell/jacket
Wear some type of waterproof windbreaker or shell jacket to protect you from the wind and rain/snow. Gore-Tex is the best light wieight material as it does a great job of releasing moisture from the body while also keeping out moisture from the outside elements. Nylon also does a reasonable job for a lesser price but it may hold moisture (sweat!) inside the jacket.

4. Cover exposed skin as much as possible.
A hat and gloves are a necessity once the temperature dips below freezing - or even before. Your body will lose the majority of its heat through any exposed skin - and a large percentage through the head. So cover up as much as possible. If it's really cold out there,you can cover exposed areas such as your face with Vaseline to reduce the cold.

5. Out and Back (and wind chill)
Beware of windchill: The actual air temperature is often not the problem in cold-weather walking – the windchill factor matters more.
So check the weather forecast when deciding what to wear, whether for training or racing. No matter the temperature, check out whether windy conditions may affect your training or race route. Dress for cold-weather sessions but consider whether a wind-resistant outer layer is necessary if your route is out-and-back: a tailwind in the first half may generate a lot of sweat, but then face a headwind on the way back, this will rapidly pull all that sweat off the body and chill. Avoid this problem by packing a wind-resistant jacket to put on at your turnaround point and if possible, start your workout into the wind and finish with it behind you. If you head into the wind when you are sweaty, you can get dangerously chilled.

6. Water, water!
Don't forget to hydrate.
Athletes may routinely use water or a sports drink while training in the summer heat but may forget to do so in the colder months.
Hydration is just as important in cold-weather training as it is in hot weather. Failure to drink carries the same risks in the cold as it does in the heat: dehydration, faintness and even fatigue-related injury.
Several factors increase the likelihood of dehydration in the cold :
  • cold air tends to be very dry and in dry air more fluid is lost as vapour through breathing.
  • the cold tends to suppress thirst so that athletes tend to drink less even if when carrying a water bottle!!
  • cold-induced dieresis causes rapid fluid loss via urination, which will often reduce the amount of fluid an athlete voluntarily will choose to drink when exercising in the cold.

So to avoid dehydration in your winter training sessions, drink water or a sports drink during all workouts lasting longer than an hour, even on the coldest days. Compensate for your reduced desire to drink by drinking on a schedule of four to six ounces every 10 to 15 minutes. Sports drinks are generally preferable to water because unlike water they replace the electrolyte minerals lost in sweat and provide carbohydrate energy, plus they are more palatable. Consider heating your sports drink before you start to make it even more palatable.

7. And when you've finished
Get out of damp clothes as soon as possible: When you stop moving, get out of your training/race kit quickly, even if you cannot shower immediately. Have plenty of dry clothes on hand.
Protect your skin - face and lips – with moisturiser, sun protection (even in winter!). Apply a moisturiser (or vaseline) and lip balm before setting out.

8 And finally,
Enjoy the snow if you are fortunate to have some but beware of ice. Walking in snow can be fun and exhilarating, but ice is treacherous. Black ice forms early in the morning and at dusk, and is almost impossible to see.


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