Cold Weather Riding
Frozen Nose, Toes, & Clothes
26“When the temperature starts sinking below 25°F (-4°C) a fleece balaclava with coverage for your nose should be used. What is difficult for those of us who wear glasses is fogging up when wearing the balaclava. I try keeping my glasses further down my nose to allow for more air circulation.” Kevin Redmond, Cycling Commuter in Calgary, Canada
I needed to prepare for a particularly aggressive pre-season race schedule, but obligations kept me in the mid-Atlantic over the winter. That was the year we had thirteen snowstorms and six weeks of temperatures hovering at 10°F. With modified equipment and proper clothing, I was able to stay off my indoor trainer for the duration!
There were many epic training experiences during that frigid spell. Riding meant being stuck in iced-up pedals at ride’s end, a Camelbak tucked inside my jacket to keep it warm enough to drink, and a mask of partially frozen drool from an icy balaclava. I took this in stride and during a “breakthrough” when the temperature “soared” to 20°F with clear sky, sunshine and slight wind chill, it felt tropical to me. I had acclimated.
Myths abound about cold weather riding. One doesn’t get a cold from training in the cold; colds are caused by viruses with immune suppression a factor. Cold weather training has been shown to stimulate, not suppress, immunity. Cold air isn’t a factor in your ability to train with intensity, unless it’s really cold. One can go hard in the cold. 27Cross-country skiing occurs in freezing weather and is certainly intense! Ski races happen unless the temperature drops to minus 4°F/-20°C. It may be an irritant to first-line airways, but is warmed by the time it reaches lungs, and a face-mask can also block cold air.
A stipulation for training in cold are fabrics which wick sweat near the skin, resist wind or precipitation as an outer layer and special treatment for hands, feet, and face with nothing left uncovered, except maybe the bridge of your nose underneath glasses. Another must is proper nutrition/hydration. It takes energy to stay warm so don’t neglect eating or drinking. Finally, a positive but prepared attitude melts icy intimidation.
Prayer for Cold Weather Preparation
“She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.” 28Proverb 31:21
We are thankful for conditions that make us stronger. We pray for the tolerance and knowledge to approach cold weather with respect.
Ponder How can I improve cold outdoor experiences? Affirm I can be without excuse to train heartily when it’s cold. Watch attention to detail with equipment, clothing, and contingencies for a better ride.
27“Mythbusters,” a webinar by USA Cycling, March 18, 2008, presented by Steven J. McGregor, PhD, USAC Level 2 Coach, USAC Science & Education Faculty, Applied Physiology Laboratory, Eastern Michigan University.
Prolonged low-intensity training in cold is probably more dangerous than intense training because of glycogen depletion. Primary source of illness frequently is immune suppression due to underlying glycogen depletion.
28Holy Bible, King James Version public domain