Cold Weather Training
Article By: Paul “Crazy Legs” Stofko RRCA Running Coach
November 3, 2011
Cold weather training requires a little extra planning and protection before you head out the door. Your body loses heat quickly in cold weather due to convection (heat loss due to motion), conduction (transfer of heat due to temperature changes), evaporation of moisture, and radiation (transfer of energy caused by the difference between skin temperature and ambient temperature). The right layers will protect you from the elements without weighing you down. Cold can take it toll on your performance and comfort. And frostbitten skin is always a risk. But if you take some simple precautions, you can maintain your mileage in anything weather winter bring your way.
The challenge in dressing for winter training is not only to keep the winter chill and wetness out, but to manage the heat and moisture your body produces as well. Even in subfreezing temperatures your body produces a lot of heat and sweat. You can produce up to two liters per hour when running. Water conducts heat away from your body 25 times faster than air – great in summer, but dangerous in cold temperatures. Staying dry under your layers is critical and can impact heart rate, as well as comfort, dryness, and warmth.
Here are some tips for dressing in layers:
Forget cotton. It holds moisture next to your skin. Choose the new lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics that hold a very small percentage of their weight in moisture. Performance microfibers hold less than on percent of their weight in water compared to 17% wool or 8% cotton.
If you running in very cold weather, you may need a middle layer to trap the warmth your muscles generate. Choose a layer that produces maximum warmth with minimum bulk. Synthetic fibers have an advantage of staying drier than natural ones.
Fibers have been developed that block the elements without trapping too much heat and moisture underneath. Look for waterproof fabrics that vent.
Hands and Head
Up to 40% of your body’s heat loss occurs from the head due to a large blood supply, extra surface area, and the mucus membranes of the nose and mouth. Choose thin microfiber hats and lightweight gloves liners for your hands.
Don’t forget your feet
Cotton is a bad choice for socks. Look for synthetic socks that won’t hold moisture and become packed down when damp.