Winter is here and it’s getting harder to climb out from beneath the blankets and duvets to get a morning workout in. But come spring, we don’t want to have lost all the fitness gains we triumphantly achieved during warmer months of the year. Winter training will make you a stronger athlete – here’s why!
“In winter, we lose our motivation and drive and it’s not because we don’t want to train, it’s due to our minds wanting to be ‘comfortable/happy’ and wanting to stay in a warm environment,” says running coach, Garth Dorman.
“You have to find the inner strength that challenges the voice that says: ‘the weather is bad, it’s cold, it’s dark, it’s much better to stay inside’. You need to change that voice and say to yourself: ‘life is short, don’t waste time procrastinating’,” explains Garth. “This helps you to make training a permanent feature all year round,” he says.
Studies also show that regular exposure to low temperatures helps our bodies become leaner and fitter. Our bodies learn to make better use of fat reserves and burn excess fat intake faster.
How Winter Training Improves Athletic Performance
In winter you train your mind: “Winter training is more about developing mental strength. You build the mental strength to do tough things and show yourself that you can do them – even if the conditions are challenging,” says Garth. “It’s about developing your mind and training your mind to be stronger.”
Winter training improves your cardio: Cold weather forces your body to work harder during training. This also applies to your cardiovascular system. As the heart works harder to pump blood around the body during cold weather exercises, this invigorating workout helps to boost cardio strength.
Cold-weather training may improve VO2 Max: Colder temperatures cause your body to continue making subtle adaptations, such as your heart and lungs working harder. This helps to improve your muscles’ aerobic function, meaning they receive more oxygen during exercise. Studies have shown that training in the cold can increase your VO2 max; the maximum rate of oxygen your body can use during exercise.
How to Survive the Cold
- Layer up! Use layers of clothing that you can easily take off or wrap around your waist as your body warms up during exercise.
- Try running gloves and use buffs or caps to ward off the icy feeling on your hands, neck and ears.
- Warm-up well! A warm-up routine can prove even more beneficial in cold weather. Your body needs to get used to the low temperature and boost circulation before heading out.
- Get warm again quickly – pack jackets to leave in the car or make sure you get into a hot shower quickly to thaw out.
- Stay hydrated. You might not feel like drinking as much water as you do in summer, but you still need it and will still lose a lot of fluids while training.