Tips & Tricks

3 Secrets to Cold Weather Training

Hive Gold athlete Adam Loomis is no stranger to cold weather.  Living in Anchorage, Alaska, he shares his hard earned secrets to training in chilly temperatures.

Shoulder season seems to extend endlessly here in coastal Anchorage, Alaska.  Our first snow in late September proved to be more of a taste than a sign of winter being here to stay.  I’m always eager to transition from focusing on running to skiing.  However, I’ve learned that the best approach to mental and physical health is one of versatility for cold weather training.  This means adjusting mode, fueling, gear and clothing to the conditions at hand. Multisport athletes have a leg-up on those with a single-focus in these transition periods. A variety of activity choices keep one’s options open, and a little indoor training time serves merely as supplementation. 

Clothing

While a change in activity depending on conditions is obvious, the necessary adjustments to clothing and nutrition are not always as clear.  I adapt my clothing choices based not only on the weather, but what I’m doing, where I’m going and with whom.  Running is generally the hottest of activities – given low speeds and relatively high exertion – but this still means that layering is even more important.  Nothing kills a well-earned view like a shivering on a peak with frozen fingers. This can be easily prevented by a shell or a light puffy coat and an extra pair of mitts. 

Remember, being too hot or cold both require extra resources.  After a workout, even if you don’t think you were sweating, changing into warm and dry layers is essential to beginning the recovery process.

Nutrition

Nutrition is very important in cold weather training, and more often overlooked.  My winter activities tend to have a more ambiguous timeline.  When I’m packing for a ski tour, I always assume that if the weather’s good, I’m going to be out all day. Even a quick loop on foot could turn into an extended session if we’re post-holing through snow drifts, a clear ridgeline looks inviting, or icy trails mean a reroute.  To prepare for this, I always have emergency energy gels in addition to the fuel that I think I’ll need. 

The effect of temperatures on our food and liquid is also of consideration. Energy chews are a favorite cold-weather fuel of mine; they don’t freeze and are easy to eat on the move, even with gloves on.  For slower, longer days, I trend towards higher fat foods.  Honey Stinger’s Organic Cracker Bars pack over 115 calories from fat each, hold up well in cold temps and are a welcome treat on the trail (my favorite is the Almond Butter Dark Chocolate ). 

For especially cold days, I love to have a hot beverage along as well.  I learned to fill my insulated drink belt with steaming hot peppermint tea while cross country skiing near the Arctic circle early season in Finland and Norway in my Nordic Combined career.   Before long ski tours, I brew a full pot of coffee, enough for a cup on the way to the trailhead and a thermos full of coffee and Swiss Miss to break out on the skintrack.  I firmly believe that the best time to enjoy a sweet caffeinated beverage is while you’re exerting yourself and can put that sugar directly to use.

Goal Setting

Finally, goal setting is a key step towards overcoming winter blues.  Now that I’m not racing in the winter like I used to, this has been a new challenge for me.  This winter, I’m eyeing the running calendar for mid-winter races and group workouts.  I have plenty of ski objectives – peaks and lines to bag – and a couple of community cross country races on the schedule.  But I know that my biggest challenge will be remaining motivated to run through a dark, cold winter.  A little external motivation should be all I need to remain a multisport athlete throughout the winter and be ready for the trails to clear in the spring.

If you prepare right, cold weather training can be as enjoyable as the best summer days – if not better.  The oft quoted, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing,” rings true, and I would extend this statement to include nutrition, location and gear choice as well.  With this mantra, the winter can be the optimal time for big adventures and building a large base for the following summer season.