The Knowledge by Wahoo

How to Train in the Cold

Episode Summary

Jeff and Jinger share their top tips for training in the cold.

Episode Notes

Of course, you'd rather train inside when it's cold outside (right?), but sometimes you can't avoid it. Jeff and Jinger explain the physiological effects of training in the cold and share their top tips for training when the temperature drops. From cold habituation to keeping warm and staying properly fuelled, you'll get the Knowledge you need for effective cold-weather rides.

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Episode Transcription

Jeff Hoobler  0:00  

Hey, welcome back to another episode of The Knowledge Podcast brought to you by the Wahoo sports science team here in Boulder, Colorado. I am Jeff Hoobler.


Jinger Gottschall  0:09  

And I'm Dr.Jinger Gottschall. Today, we are going to break the ice on prepping for and performing in the cold what?


Jeff Hoobler  0:18  

Break the ice... break the ice I get it, I get it.


Jinger Gottschall  0:21  

Oh, we are nerdy and funny here,


Jeff Hoobler  0:25  

Training and racing in the cold require extra preparation to account for a number of physiological changes that can affect your performance in negative ways. The physiological and metabolic impact of exercising in cold weather can be pretty intense, the body needs to work harder to perform in a harsher climate, and to be able to generate adequate heat to keep warm.


Jinger Gottschall  0:49  

So there are some basic physiological things going on. And let's start with the obvious, which is it's cold. And can I just say, This is not my forte with respect to my attitude, I become a little bit of a brat, I need to give myself an attitude adjustment in cold weather.


Jeff Hoobler  1:12  



Jinger Gottschall  1:13  

So this is a great topic for me to be talking about with respect to the application that we get to later because the more prepared you are, the less bratty you can be.


Jeff Hoobler  1:23  

Yeah, and it is there's, there's a lot of mental prep that goes into like just getting wrapping your head around. Exactly, which is a good thing when seasons change slowly. But when you get these quick changes, and then it's all sudden it's called Boom. I actually just got a shiver from that.


Jinger Gottschall  1:40  

Alright, so let's get to the basics. And some of the things that are obvious, which is when there's cold, you have a decrease in your blood temperature and a decrease in your skin temperature. These temperature reductions are sensed by a small little portion of your cerebrum, called the hypothalamus. And what the hypothalamus is going to do is send a signal to constrict the skin's blood vessels, this is called vasoconstriction. So that there is less heat that is going to be given to the environment and you're keeping it within you. That means the skeletal muscles will be activated. And how do they get activated, and what do they do shiver, this is going to then give them the activity that they need to generate heat, and then your body temperature can increase. So that is our chain reaction with respect to what happens in terms of basic physiology in cold.


Jeff Hoobler  2:46  

Blood is pulling away from the outside, keeping it in tight.


Jinger Gottschall  2:50  

Keeping it in as much as you can.


Jeff Hoobler  2:53  

So some physiological responses to exercise in the cold. Let's talk about hypothermia. And that would be a drop from anywhere around 34 and a half to about 29 and a half Celsius.


Jinger Gottschall  3:11  

It's a significant decrease in body temperature.


Jeff Hoobler  3:14  

It is, and you know when that when this happens, you have reduced muscle function, you have decreased contractile force, and decreased power production. I mean, it's not a surprise, right? And as fatigue increases, metabolic heat production decreases. Because you can't do as much work, you're actually not warming yourself up as much. So this inner energy reserve depletion causes a greater potential for hypothermia. So you start going down that road, and it's easier and easier to slip down that road


Jinger Gottschall  3:52  

Exactly, you get more and more fatigued and you're using more energy


Jeff Hoobler  3:56  

Free fatty acid oxidation decreases. muscle glycogen utilization increases. So if you become hypoglycemic, shivering is reduced, causing greater potential for hypothermia.


Jinger Gottschall  4:12  

So you can see how these things are interrelated. You don't oxidate the fats, and therefore you're using sugars as your energy, those get depleted quicker, and then you're fatigued. You don't shiver by rolling your cold. That's terrible. Let's also talk about just how different body compositions are influenced by these mechanisms. If you have a greater, inactive, or for that matter, active peripheral muscle mass, you actually have greater insulation. And men typically have this greater peripheral muscle mass than women so they are at the benefit with respect to this insulation level,


Jeff Hoobler  5:01  

And tell our listeners just exactly what you're talking about with peripheral muscle mass.


Jinger Gottschall  5:07  

Peripheral muscle mass is a way from your trunk. So you have greater muscle mass in, let's say, your arms, upper, and lower as well as the legs. Now women, though benefit in terms of insulation beef because we typically have a greater subcutaneous fat. Now, again, these things are generalizations, but just things to keep in mind with respect to your propensity to warm yourself.


Jeff Hoobler  5:37  



Jinger Gottschall  5:38  

Then there's one last component, which is very interesting, which is your surface area to mass ratio. And children are basically at a higher risk of hypothermia than adults because of this specific ratio. So just something to keep in mind if you are in charge of the younger and smaller humans at any point in time in the cold is to make sure that they're bundled up.


Jeff Hoobler  6:12  

Yeah.Telling them to suck it up is probably not the way to go about it right. Not gonna happen. And I can't help talking about cold and not thinking about the little guy in A Christmas Story.


Jinger Gottschall  6:26  

But not putting his arms down was probably a better scenario, exactly. Being hypothermia.


Jeff Hoobler  6:32  

I don't think he was trained. And I think he was walking to school. So some final comments on cold weather training. And something to think about and keep in the back of your head. Treatment for mild hypothermia includes removing yourself from a cold environment and dry clothing, blankets, and warm beverages. However, the last thing that somebody wants to do if they have put them in their wet is get undressed. So if it means to find somebody, you know, this is just an aside only because I've been in the situation, you find somebody who is hypothermic near what closing you got to get them you got to get the clothes off, you got to get them warm, and you got to get them dry. And moving on to cold habituation. Cold habituation occurs after repeated calls exposures without significant heat loss. So you're getting exposed without going into the detrimental effects. And core temperature decreases without vasoconstriction or shivering. So few snippets, but not for hypothermia.


Jinger Gottschall  7:40  

And that's why Jeff was also saying earlier on that it's easier to adapt to cold weather training when it's there smaller decreases in temperature as the season changes. Because that's what you're basically doing. You're training yourself to be okay with the cold and not lose that heat loss where if you get a day that's super cold, and it's been warm beforehand, then it's basically a shock to the system. You're not ready to trade for


Jeff Hoobler  8:07  

Yeah, I tell you I just came back when I left before vacation, it was 95 degrees, and walked around in the desert. Well as a way it came back and it's in the high 40s Yeah, what happened is a shock now, it wasn't extreme, but still, it wasn't that gradual decline.


Jinger Gottschall  8:26  

Exactly. Next, up for us is we are going to give you 5 12345 of our top tips to mitigate the negative effects of training and racing in the cold. Bring it on Bring it on. The first one is basically all about how to stay warm. And consider all of the factors and the first thing I think we should be talking about then is how you are dressing and that is in layers. That is your best bet mode. We're not talking sessions we're not talking and let me tell you, I am the least high fashion when I'm dressing for the cold because I do not care I just want to be comfortable. Alright, let's talk about these layers. All right, the base layer should be a very light and sweat-wicking layer followed by on top of that a breathable microfleece and this is then usually your long-sleeve jersey. I insulated winter tights and I usually have two pairs ongoing, to be honest. A thermal jacket or winter cycling jacket that has some ventilation. So you know when you have those weird little areas that look like they didn't do a good job of sewing up? That's on purpose because you want it to be breathable so that you aren't sweating so much that it's cold because the cold sweat in the water is actually not a good thing with respect to keeping your temperature


Jeff Hoobler  9:58  

and you know just A quick note on that. And mostly cyclists who've been out in the cold know how critical this can be with that little thin top layer that you can just throw on. Keeping all the warm inside is really key


Jinger Gottschall  10:14  

Really key. And again, what you just said is the layering throw on takeoff, you want to be able to be versatile with respect to what you're going to keep on and what you're going to take off depending upon where you are in the ride and how you feel with respect to temperature. The second part of that dressing is about these peripheries, the hands, and the feet that we mentioned earlier, the arms and the legs, but even more peripheral. Getting distally is hands, feet, lobster gloves, lobster, my favorite thing for the hands because you can still maintain proper shifting and braking with having two fingers together that helps when the actual skin touches to maintain the warmth. Yep. And with feet, you got to make the feet are constantly moving in the elements. So having some booties protecting the shoe covers is huge. Yeah,


Jeff Hoobler  11:13  

I have a teammate that writes with plastic bags hanging out of his shoes, he doesn't do a good job of tucking them in, but I tell you, it keeps his feet warm.


Jinger Gottschall  11:20  

It does. And those plastic bags you can put even if you have a liner sock than the plastic bag, and then a thick sock over that's that plastic bag sandwiches is actually a golden rule.


Jeff Hoobler  11:32  

And I can't help but bring it up. But one of our dear companions here, Mr. Henderson suffers from some Raynaud's. Yeah, and his hands get really cold. So you know, if you know that you have a condition like that having heated clubs as a way to go to or even you know, those inserts that you can put in?


Jinger Gottschall  11:53  

Yes, both those little warmers that you activate, work for over an hour, but I actually have used the heated gloves in hikes. They're phenomenal. Phenomenal. Yeah. Totally, totally. So that's number one.


Jeff Hoobler  12:08  

Right on. So also, want to make sure that we're thinking about the nutrition plan. So having softer foods available, whether it's sandwiches, fruit or cookies, you know, that's going to be key, if you've ever been out on a ride, and you had the old-time PowerBar it's frozen like a brick, you can use it, you know, to knock the mud off your shoes, not going to be so good to chew. So, also, when the body is exposed to a significant change in temperature, its initial need for energy increases. So break down glycogen faster, and the muscles. So so it's critical to opt to optimize your nutrient intake before, during, and after cold weather training. So you know, like we talked about the seasons, changing slowly understanding that your nutritional needs are going to change with this as you adapt. So you know, just be prepared with proper nutrition. In addition, your body will fatigue faster in cold weather, especially without adequate fuel. So, you know, pay attention to that. Especially if you're going to do some longer sessions in the cold, you want to make sure that you have plenty of fuel, it's better to have too much and not enough.


Jinger Gottschall  13:24  

Absolutely. And the reminder from our previous little lesson in physiology was that you don't break down fats as quickly. And it's more carbohydrates. So having some of those simple sugars ready to roll. Yep. Third thing. Third thing is, don't forget to hydrate. Interestingly, when we are cold, you don't actually feel as thirsty. And you're not thinking about it as much as if you were doing a ride in the heat, where you're just constantly sweating and thinking I'm losing all of this.


Jeff Hoobler  13:57  

I can't tell you how many times I've come back, you know, about an hour or two hours. And I'm like, Oh, I still have four water bottles. Yeah, for water bottles. That's


Jinger Gottschall  14:06  

not a good thing. And actually, past research has shown that the cold diminishes your thirst by up to 40%. And humans aren't accurate at thirst recognition anyway, to decrease that can actually end up being a big problem. So let's get to what you could do about this, which is make sure that your water bottles actually have some sort of thermal wrap. So they're not frozen, so they're not frozen. And another thing about not freezing is to bring hot drinks in some sort of insulated flasks. I've definitely been one to bring tea or a coffee and sip on that a little bit at the beginning of the ride.


Jeff Hoobler  14:49  

Sounds pretty good to me.


Jinger Gottschall  14:50  

That's pretty good to me, too.


Jeff Hoobler  14:51  

So number four is about your bike. You want to make sure the winner, winner, winner, the winner is you You want to make sure that you went to ride your bike and use winter accessories. So obviously make sure your drive train is clean lubed especially with you know synthetic lube or a wax, something's going to keep the water off-chain, use my mudguards and you know offender to keep your drive not only your drive terrain clean, but the water off your tush, you treat any exposed steel with, you know, any anti-rust spray or, or wax or so basically make sure that you don't have exposed steel, right, make sure your cables are well sealed, and back of the tire pressure because you know, generally, with cold, you're going to have some type of moisture, you know, whether it's ice or snow or water. So a little less pressure is gonna give you a little bit more traction.


Jinger Gottschall  16:02  

Exactly. And the fifth and final tip is to make a plan for your actual route. And also the style of cycling that you're doing. So mountain versus road versus gravel versus fat bike, you can make these decisions and think about the time of day as well as what the temperature is. And don't forget to look at the wind chill, and the real feel temperature because they can be drastically different. And we're talking 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit different when you count in the wind. So with that, make sure you're prepared for either an earlier morning or a later afternoon ride that you may need lights when you didn't in the summer. And lithium batteries are not great in the cold. So make sure everything is charged up. And you've got some options. Mountain biking or fat bike could be a better option because you're actually moving at a slower speed one shows exactly where the road cycling is going to be more exposed. And with that, think about where you are. If you're on those fat or tire bikes, you may be protected a bit from the wind because you're on the trails with a lot of trees on the road more exposed.


Jeff Hoobler  17:21  

I can tell you that is a huge factor. Huge difference.


Jinger Gottschall  17:25  

Yes. Also, rest breaks. We all know we might, but keep them short, don't. Don't let yourself stand out there for too long, then you actually have that additional sweat and you reduce the muscle activity that is helping to keep you warm. And lastly, just be aware of how the wind chill is changing. And it's great effects because that's going to be probably one of the major things that will influence your overall comfortability. Can that, be right? Yeah, I just made that word up.


Jeff Hoobler  18:02  

I like it. Let's roll with it. So let's recap. Top three things to consider when writing in cold clothing.


Jinger Gottschall  18:11  

Number one,


Jeff Hoobler  18:12  

nutrition and hydration. Got it, keep drinking. And you're right about environment, Route, time temperature when etcetera.


Jinger Gottschall  18:22  

Well, I think that's it. I think we broke the ice for sure. So just still bringing that one back bringing it back. I love it. We hope that you are able to take away some useful information on the topic of cold and that it will make you a better endurance athlete regardless of the environmental conditions. Thanks for listening to The Knowledge Podcast by Wahoo