Training in cold weather

25. January 2017

You are at an advantage if you train all year round.

Our body not only gets used to the conditions, but it constantly adapts. Those who train all year round therefore have much fewer problems to contend with when it comes to the respiratory or circulatory systems. But this should not stop those who have not trained for a while from taking up training now. This is because running or skiing through a snowy winter landscape definitely has its charm.

You can successfully defy the cold with these tips:  

Before training:

  • The winter air is dry. So make sure you drink enough before your training.
  • Adapt your training to the conditions: the colder the air and the more slippery the ground, the less you should push your training to the limit.
  • Think of doing alternative training when the weather outside is extreme (icy, slushy).
  • Plan to start your training around noon when the sun is up and the day is at its warmest.

During training:

  • Begin your training slowly so your airways can warm up. Wear a scarf to warm and help humidify the air you breathe.
  • Make sure you wear functional clothing, which transports sweat outside and away from the skin and provides outside protection against the wind.
  • Think about your fluid intake when doing long endurance training sessions. For example, an (insulated) drinking belt can be used when cross-country skiing.

After training:

  • After your training, get back inside to the warmth as quickly as possible and get rid of your damp clothes.
  • Make sure that your fluid intake is sufficient.
  • Do stretching exercises indoors in dry clothes.

This is how the professionals do it 

We asked the best in their field. Here you can read how they deal with the cold:


Urs Huber - Mountain biker 

I basically train outside all year round, even in winter and when it is cold. However, when the temperature drops below freezing, I usually complete two units, which are not too long, e.g. jogging for 30 minutes and biking for 3 hours’ maximum. As there are now really good clothes on the market, this can no longer be used as an excuse. However, the cold air places great demands on the respiratory system so I always wear a scarf in winter, which I pull in front of my mouth and nose so I inhale less cold air. Long snowshoe treks of up to eight hours bring variety to my winter training.


Christian Kreienbühl - Marathon runner 

I don’t really adapt my training much for the cold weather. I am more like to make adjustments due to the "substratum" and darkness. This means: I don’t normally do any track training in winter - instead I do hill runs or intervals on ice-free terrain. As far as equipment is concerned, I rely on the "onion principle". This means functional, skin-tight underwear with more functional layers of clothing on top. Windstopper clothing (and gloves) help when the temperatures are extremely cold. Functional face and neck tubes, which can be pulled over the head, are very practical in protecting your face against the cold air and preventing it from seeping in through the top of your running jacket. I usually wear my "normal" running shoes, unless it is very icy, or I plan to run through the forest in the snow. Then I wear trail running shoes to avoid slipping during the push-off running motion and basically reduce the risk of falling. 
Due to the risk of catching a cold in wintry weather, I no longer do my after-training stretching "outside the apartment” but instead do it on a gymnastic mat in the warm living room (once I have changed out of my damp cold clothes into dry ones).


Maja Neuenschwander - Marathon runner 

Adjustments certainly need to be made when it comes to selecting the route – as far as the "faster units” are concerned, I make sure I don’t need to run in the snow. This may mean training later in the day (once the roads have been cleared) or only in those places where the snow plough is used. Of course, low temperatures often have an impact on speed, and as my muscles get "stiffer” quicker (especially when it's still "wet"), I'm more inclined to do heart rate running. This is not so bad for me, because in winter I usually end up doing a basic endurance block, in which the focus is not so much on the fast speeds, but rather on the scope. As regards clothing, I see to it that I wear an extra layer on my lower back area or buttocks / thighs (short tights under the long ones). When it comes to the choice of shoes, after many years I still do not really have a "conclusive” opinion as to which shoes are optimal - so I run in the same shoes, as always.


Gabriel Lombriser - Multi-sport athletes 

I only adapt my training when it gets colder than -5 degrees. Then I avoid intensive units, but continue with my endurance runs as normal. When it comes to a competition, it is important that I do a good warm-up run so my bronchial tubes are not overly strained, but have time to get used to the cold air. I prefer to use the treadmill when the road conditions are slippery and icy. This also has its charm and the advantage of not only avoiding the danger of falling but prevents unnecessary tensions that affect the feet, calves, knees, and hips. 
As far as equipment is concerned, I always try to apply the layer principle. It seems to me that the most important thing here is to make sure the Achilles tendons and calves are wrapped up warmly.


Bernd Hornetz - Cyclist 

The colder it gets outside; the more careful I am about training at high levels of intensity. If I do undertake intensive training, then I only do short units. On the other hand, I also do moderate basic training for 6 hours at temperatures a little above freezing. I make sure I regenerate well afterwards, with additional vitamins, enzymes, and amino acids in a FitLine cocktail
To avoid falls with serious consequences when it is frosty, I use the crosser or mountain bike with spike tires for street training. One good side effect of this is that you always need to place reasonable pressure on the pedal. 
Clothes and equipment are, of course, an important issue. Sportful Fiandre NoRain always provides me with the appropriate insulation, and protection against wind and rain. When it falls well below 0°C, then I wear winter boots with heated insoles and gloves with heated pads.


Hermann Achmüller - Mountain runner 

I try, insofar as my job makes it possible, to train at lunchtime so as to escape the worst of the cold weather. What’s more, I prefer to shift my more intensive training units to somewhat milder days. On colder days, I dedicate myself more to relaxed, long runs. The winter is also very good for devoting moretime to doing gymnastics and strength exercises in front of the TV in the evening.


Toni Livers - Cross-country skier 

During the very cold temperatures I make sure that I dress warmly. This means, protecting the feet especially with overshoes, wearing warm gloves, and keeping the face warm with a buff and possibly 2 caps. For me, it is also important that I don’t stand around and can go inside to the warmth straight after training. A warm and somewhat stronger sports drink gives me energy during my training. In general, the body consumes more energy when it is extremely cold. In the first few days, I only train at a light level of intensity, so my lungs and muscles can get used to the cold temperatures.


Martina Strähl - Mountain runner 

When the temperatures are around freezing, I go to the fitness centre each day. I ultimately do my training before work. You can usually find me in the fitness centre between 6:00 and 7:00. I do each fast running unit on the treadmill. I also use the cross-trainer and attend strength endurance courses such as BodyPump, and CX (trunk). As a rule, I only run outside one to two times a week at the most during these temperatures. This is usually a longer, more relaxed unit. I choose shoes with a good profile and dress according to the layer principle., ZVG