As the mercury drops but gyms are closed, capitalise on the benefits of training outside with these red-hot tips
First of all – what’s in it for you? Wrapping up and braving the British weather in search of superior fitness takes courage, and if you’re intent on plucking some up then we don’t blame you for wanting some frozen solid benefits. Thankfully, there are plenty.
Faster fat loss – As your body works harder to stay warm, the calorie burn of every cold weather workout is higher than those done inside.
Extra stamina – Research by Arizona University found that cold weather training constricts blood vessels, forcing the heart to work harder and therefore helps you to increase your VO2 max by 34%.
Stronger immunity – Not only will cardio training reduce your chances of contracting the flu by 20-30%, according to the Mayo Clinic, evidence suggests training in the cold bolsters your immune system even more.
But a little extra preparation can ensure your sub-zero sessions are safer, more effective and more enjoyable.
First, layer up.
Beyond the obvious long-sleeve sweat-wicking top you need a layer that will preserve your core temperature without restricting movement. Nike’s Aeroloft (£139) packs plenty of lightweight insulation with reflective accents for darker mornings.
Nothing will have you hot-footing it home like soaked through shoes from puddle-strewn paths. Pick up a pair of trail shoes for your new training plan and make sure they have a Gore Tex upper. Merrel’s Flex2’s (£100), will save your soles.
Your wooly numbers won’t cut it during the final reps of an outdoor workout. RockTape’s Talon training gloves (£30) have silicone beaded palms for grip and are touchscreen compatible so you can still hit ‘start’ on your timer.
Next, warm up.
Your usual warm up done in the warm of your living room will help, but it pays to pay extra close attention to your calves in the cold. When they’re cold, they shorten and can put you at great risks of pulls and sprained ankles.
Calf bounces: In a downward dog position, alternate each leg as you push your heel down into the ground to feel the stretch in your calf. Bounce from side to side for 60 seconds, holding for a bit longer if you feel tightness.
Alternate lunges: Step forward from standing and plant your right foot far ahead of you. Sink your left knees close to the floor and shift your weight over the leading right foot until you can feel the stretch in your calf. Push back to standing and repeat on the other side for 2 sets of 10 reps.
Then, breathe into it.
Your movements and training will be inefficient if you let the shivers get the better of you. Bring your nervous system under control with some controlled breathing. Try a technique that involves a slow, 7-second inhale through the nose and then a calm exhale out the mouth. Try it 10 times and bring yourself back into the zone, ready to go.
Finally, stay hydrated.
It may not feel like it, but when you’re training in the cold you can lose 3-8% of our body mass due to sweat (those layers add up), suppressed thirst and cold-induced diuresis (peeing more often). This will reduce performance and recovery. Keep a water bottle handy and look for an electrolyte tablet to help with fluid retention.