Thursday, January 8, 2015

Steve's Cold Weather Training Tips

Now that we`ve successfully sent our bone chilling Alberta Clipper to the USA Midwest, I figure the least I can do is offer some cold weather training (& living tips) to get through it all. I know that we`ve all got our own cold weather survival tips often gleaned from painful experiences and frostbite. So, for what it`s worth, here`s mine:

-Warm torso = warm hands. Same goes for legs and feet. I can be ski touring uphill in -20C (-8F), but my hands are sweating so much I have to take my gloves off to keep them from getting too wet. Same with feet. Warm enough layers on legs means warm feet. I like to use pants with ventilation zips to keep from overheating on the ups, then zip up for the downs.

-Heater packs. These chemical warmers have saved me on many occasion. In a very cold skimo race at Jackson Hole last year I’d opened them up and placed them in my spare mittens and put them in my pack. Since the heaters take about ½ hour of exposure to air to really heat up, by the time I needed them part way into the race I simply swapped them out for my gloves and my hands were happy the rest of the race. One of my travelling partners didn’t fare so well and spent 2+ hours in emerg for frostbitten hands. Her hands were actually yellow, blue and green... really nasty looking. Unfortunately she’ll have circulation problems and cold hands the rest of her life. This is how it often goes when you frostbite a particular part of your bod.

They also make insole heater packs that you can slip into your boots. I’ve had mixed results with these.

-Hand/arm swinging. If the hands are cold and getting numb, then it’s time to stop your activity, take poles off and swing your arms hard. Raise ‘em up high, then forcefully swing them down. This effectively brings warm blood from the torso and arms down into the hands. Do it until the numbness ends and the until the pain (of thawing) abates (ouch!!).

-Fur lined bush pilot hat. I love my hat. It’s insulated and has big fur lined ear flaps that wrap around my cheeks. I’ll wear a balaclava or full face mask underneath and laugh at the cold. What they say about having a warm head bringing warmth to the rest of the body I think is true.

-Anti-perspirant and powder on the feet to keep them dry. This is an old truck driver’s secret. When you’re exerting hard and sweating, your feet can easily chill out when the pace slackens a bit. Another foot trick is to use neoprene sox. Your feet will really sweat in these so the powder and anti-perspirant are important to use in combination with these.

-Protect the face!! Use a balaclava or Buff (I love Buffs. You can configure them so many ways to adapt for whatever cold condition you’re facing). For really cold I have an old face mask similar to what my mom made me wear when I was a kid. It’s got eye holes and a hole for breathing. It makes you look like a Palestinian terrorist or WWF wrestler, but that just adds to the badness factor.

-Moleskin/physio tape. When you’re racing you tend to take a few more cold weather risks for flexibility, breathing and to avoid overheating. So instead of the face protection mentioned above I’ll often use either of these. The moleskin has a little better insulation, but the physio tape comes in cooler colours. Back in the day we’d often get awesome looking frostbite marks in the shape of a Nike swoosh right at the place where the wind came off our Oakley Factory Pilots. So we’d put the tape on that spot. Worked good!

-Hood. This is a new one for me, but it seems every training jacket and base layer I prefer now comes with a hood. It’s so great to have the flexibility to throw that hood on when needed as it’s always in tow, but out of sight. My latest favourite base layer is the Sherpa Tchimi hoodie. The hood actually zips up so high that it has balaclava built into the hood. Materials are super fine, with an incredible fit. It’s a Nepal company so I assume the pieces are made by actual Sherpas. Nice to help out a developing economy (no I’m not sponsored....yet).

-Woolie Boolie sox. Man, I love my all wool, thick Woolie Boolie sox. I have them in ankle high and knee high. Even with the advent of all the new hi tech synthetic materials, it’s still pretty hard to beat old fashioned wool. After a workout I’ll put these on along with a dry base layer and be smiling all the way home. It’s paradise when you can also slip into dry underwear, but that’s a little more challenging to do in a crowded parking lot!

-Ease up on the throttle. Regulating your sweat rate is super important in sub cold. If you feel you’re sweating too much then back off. You’re going to pay for all that moisture build up with getting chilled at some point coming soon! You’re already getting the training leg up on your competitors just by being out there, so don’t sweat it!

-Insulated pants. This final tip isn’t for training, but just general life. I love my flannel lined khaki pants for kicking around during the day. Their way more comfortable than regular long johns and easier to put on to start your day!