Training in Spring Requires Preparation - Beating the Effects of Fluctuating Mercury

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Training in the cold can be effective and fun with some planning. Overall, prepare for the environment, stay hydrated and dry, listen to your body and have a great safe cold weather outing.

By Todd Arnold, M.D.
AMSSM Member

Now that spring is upon us, the weather is warming up, but many are still dealing with cold weather days. One day it seems it is the start of the warming trend only to have the mercury drop the next day, with the wind and rain returning. This can be a limiting factor for training; however, with attention to preparation, training in the cold can still be fun and effective. Many triathletes also train year-round, and these principles will be useful in the truly cold months of winter.

Important Cold-Weather Training Principles
In general, athletes need to pay attention to the following issues when training in cold weather:

  • The weather

  • Clothing

  • Skin exposure and

  • Hydration

Paying attention to these principles will make training in cold spring weather more fun and less anxiety-filled.

Weather
Preparation starts with checking the weather. (Get the B.T.com Weather Feed!). This is not only a check of the current situation but also the predicted weather as many workouts can last through changes in the situation.


Clothing
Clothing should be worn in three layers:

  • The innermost layer should consist of a material that will wick the moisture away from the body. Sweat held against the skin is evaporated and as in the summer heat, this evaporation cools the skin.

  • A second layer should be made of polyester or polypropylene. This type of material is light-weight and will not absorb the moisture, making this material a better choice. Don’t use material that can absorb moisture like cotton or wool for a second layer, as it will become heavy and hold the water close to the skin.

  • The outer layer should be breathable to allow the moisture to then travel through it and into the environment. The outer layer can be water resistant to prevent moisture in the form of rain or snow from penetrating, but this layer must be vented with zippers and flaps to prevent the accumulation of moisture inside the jacket.

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The same layers apply to hands, head and foot wear. Staying dry is crucial and dictates the layers. Precipitation is an important factor and frequently dictates clothing significantly. Longer exposures to very wet conditions may require a change in socks, gloves and head gear to prevent heat loss form these surfaces to the cold wet material. It is very difficult to prevent socks and hats from becoming wet in the rain, but still stay vented, because these might need to be changed mid-workout.

Skin Exposure
Windy conditions or cycling in the cold weather make it critical to cover exposed skin to avoid local skin injuries. This can be accomplished with facemasks and wind-proof gloves. Respiratory problems are also common in the cold, affecting athletes susceptible to exercise-induced asthma. Use a scarf or facemask to improve heating of air before it hits your lungs.

Hydration
Hydration may be as important in the cold as it is in the heat. Temperature modulation is easier to achieve with normal hydration allowing the body to distribute the warmth equally. Appropriate hydration starts before the workout and continues during the workout, just as in the heat.

Hypothermia is what we are trying to prevent through appropriate preparation. Hypothermia occurs when heat production cannot keep up with heat loss. The early signs include shivering but can progress to mental confusion and disorientation. Listen to your body if you are shivering, halt the exercise and seek shelter. Do not allow continued exposure to the environment to rob your body of heat.

Training in the cold can be effective and fun with some planning. Overall, prepare for the environment, stay hydrated and dry, listen to your body and have a great safe cold weather outing.

 



Dr. Arnold is with Methodist Sports Medicine in Indianapolis, IN. He is a member of the America Medical Society for Sports Medicine. This information, prepared by a member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, is not medical advice and should be used for informational purposes only. Please consult your own physician or health care provider about any opinions or recommendations with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.

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date: April 17, 2005

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The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

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The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

FIND A SPORTS MEDICINE DOCTOR

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