Don't be discouraged -- training in the cold for a triathlon can be done, it just takes a little more preparation than usual. When your body gets cold, it uses energy faster than normal in an attempt to keep itself warm. Making sure your body retains heat during certain training periods can be critical.
When it comes to swim training, there are a few precautions that will help keep you safe and a little bit warmer, too. The first is by wearing two swimming caps instead of one to keep more heat from escaping your body. Some types of caps are better at protecting your head from the cold -- such as Neoprene caps -- because they provide a better buffer between your head and the cold water compared to latex caps [source: Koskella]. Another precaution is to train in a full wetsuit to protect more of your body from the cold water. You should also cover your armpits, where heat tends to escape. Aside from protecting your body, it's also a good idea to swim with a partner in cold weather conditions, just in case your body reacts strongly to the frigid water.
When it comes to cycling training in the cold, make sure you wear the proper layers. The layers need to be able to breathe so that your sweat doesn't build up underneath them, causing your body's temperature to decrease too rapidly as the sweat turns to ice. At the same time, you need to be able to protect your skin from the wind-chill effect as you ride. Assess the amount of time you'll be training and how hard you'll be working before piling on too many layers. Your body will perspire in cold conditions and you'll need to be able to allow it to cool down.
The same goes for running in the cold. Assessing the right amount of layers will help keep you warm; however, you should still allow your body to stay cool during the workout. The cold affects more than just your body: Running shoes can lose their ability to supply ample padding in cold weather conditions. You should change the soles during cold weather conditions because not all types of padding respond the same way when it's cold out. Polyurethane soles won't give the same support when it's cold, so some people recommend using an ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam in cold weather conditions because it retains more padding strength [source: McManus]. If your training shoes have mesh or other areas that are exposed, cover them up and make sure your feet are protected from any type of moisture that could get in [source: McManus].
No matter what precautions you take, make sure to limit the amount of time outside in extremely cold conditions. To stay hydrated and to keep your water from freezing, drink sports drinks, or mix some in with your water, because the sugar will lower the freezing point of the water [source: McManus].
For more information about triathlon training and other related topics, follow the links below.
- Koskella, Kevin. "Coping with Cold Water Swimming." April 27, 2010. (Sept. 7, 2010) http://triathlon.competitor.com/2010/04/training/coping-with-cold-water-swimming-2_9072
- MayoClinic. "Frostbite: First Aid." (Sept. 8, 2010)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/first-aid-frostbite/FA00023
- MayoClinic. "Hypothermia Definition." (Sept. 8, 2010) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hypothermia/DS00333
- McManus, Melanie Radzicki. "Winter Advisory." Runners World. August 2004. (Sept. 7, 2010) http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-238-267-269-9262-0,00.html
- Prazak, Tawnee. "Cold Weather Training and Your Body." (Sept. 7, 2010) http://www.active.com/triathlon/Articles/Cold_Weather_Training_and_Your_Body.htm