Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Training in a Winter Wonderland

by Leigh Cove
Algonquin College Sport Business Management Intern

Dipping temperatures, blistering winds, and the icy obstacle course that was once a road, usually send many fleeing inside to the safety and warmth of their homes this time of year. For others it’s their playground. Whether you are a winter athlete, coach, or like to train outside regardless of the season, there are a few points to keep in mind before you step out into the cold.
Frostnip, frostbite, and hypothermia are the three primary cold weather injuries athletes are exposed to in winter. For frostnip and bite to occur the temperature must drop below freezing (0°C), and skin does not necessarily have to be exposed. Hypothermia can happen anytime your core body temperature drops below 37°C. These injuries occur when the body’s heat loss is greater than the amount it’s generating.

To prevent heat loss, those training outside in winter should dress appropriately and layer. Layering ensures there is a barrier of air between your skin and the ambient environment which acts to reduce heat flow away from the body. At the same time do not over dress, wearing too much clothing can lead to excess sweating and cooling of the skin through evaporative heat loss.

General Guideline to Layering:
  • 0°C to -10°C - Single long-sleeved synthetic layer 
  • 15°C to -20°C - Base layer with windbreaker or running shell 
  • Below -20°C - Add a second long-sleeved layer under coat
In preparing for cold weather training it is important to be aware of not just temperature but the wind chill. Wind, whether it be natural or man-made (such as the wind created by a skier going downhill), amplifies heat loss and reduces the amount of insulation provided by clothing by disturbing the pocket of air layering creates. The heat loss caused by wind chill (despite the actual temperature) can be extreme enough to cause frostbite on its own.

Since winter weather can be unpredictable, planning ahead is the best way to ensure you will properly prepared when training outside; make sure to check the forecast regularly, adjust training when necessary, dress appropriately, stay hydrated and most importantly, have fun.

Printable PDF wind chill cards are available through the SIRC website: http://www.sirc.ca/online_resources/weather.cfm#wind

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Castellani J, Young A. Health and performance challenges during sports training and competition in cold weather. British Journal Of Sports Medicine. September 2012;46(11):1-5. 
2. CLARK N. winter nutrition. American Fitness. November 2013;31(6):66-67. 
3. Gassewitz D. Coaches Guide to Winter Weather. Coaches Plan/Plan Du Coach. Winter2011 2011;17(4):7. 
4. Hydration status and fluid and sodium balance in elite Canadian junior women's soccer players in a cool environment. Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism. October 2012;37(5):931-937. 
5. Kicklighter T, Edsall J, Martin M. Effect of Moisture-Wicking Garments on Temperature Regulation During Exercise. International Journal Of Athletic Therapy & Training. November 2011;16(6):9-13. 
6. Peiser B, Reilly T, Atkinson G, Drust B, Waterhouse J. Seasonal changes and physiological responses: Their impact on activity, health, exercise and athletic performance. International Sportmed Journal. March 2006;7(1):16-32.

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