Training in the Cold

Female triathlete running in the snow
November 23, 2023

George Epley



With winter fast approaching in many parts of the country, are you prepared to continue training outside? You can maintain outdoor training with the appropriate clothing and footwear, even when temperatures drop below freezing. To run or ride a bike in the cold, you need a well-thought-out plan to ensure you stay warm and comfortable to maximize your training effort. Layering your clothing is your best option to stay comfortable when exercising in the cold; this approach will allow you to add and remove layers, depending on the temperatures and the conditions.

First, start with a base layer made from synthetic materials that allow moisture removal from the skin. Never use cotton as a base layer since cotton has no wicking capabilities and will absorb water. A 3/4 zip turtleneck is a good option. The zippers can allow for venting if you begin to overheat. Next is a mid-layer that provides insulation. Synthetic materials or wool are good options, but you want to choose a material that will continue to provide insulation even when wet. Again, zippers that allow venting are vital to the mid-layer.  The last component of your layering system is the outer layer. The outer layer protects you from the elements, whether wind, rain, or snow. The outer layer should be breathable, allowing moisture to escape, and made from waterproof material to protect you from the elements. Once again, zippers are essential in constructing the outer layer to aid in temperature regulation.

Keeping your head, hands, and feet warm and dry is crucial to having an enjoyable workout on cold, windy, and wet training days.  Gloves that block the wind but are still breathable are essential. It’s a good idea to have a pocket in the layering system to store your gloves if you overheat. The same is valid with headgear. I opt for a headband to cover my ears and add a synthetic or wool cap as needed, as with the layering system, thermal regulation is critical. Wind and water-resistant running shoes and cycling shoe covers are essential when temperatures drop below freezing.

When training in the cold, a well-thought-out layering system allows you to regulate your body heat and adjust to varying temperature changes and wind speeds, making cold weather training an enjoyable experience. So, get off the treadmill and bike trainer and enjoy the winter. Good luck with your training and your future racing schedule.

Coach Geroge Epley has a passion for knowledge and believes it’s the key to maximizing your potential. He keeps abreast of the latest scientific studies, always trying to find more efficient and validated means of coaching his athletes. Knowledge in the form of communication is just as important. The more he knows about his athletes and the sooner he knows of changes in circumstances, lifestyle, or training, the greater resource he can be.

Coach George is a USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach, USA Triathlon Youth & Junior Elite Certified, USA Cycling Elite Level, USA Cycling Cyclocross Certified, ACSM – Certified Personal Trainer, MBSC – Certified Functional Strength Coach, Training Peaks Coach and WKO4 Certified

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