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Home / News / 220’s Winter Training Advent Calendar (Part 16)

220’s Winter Training Advent Calendar (Part 16)

How do you cope with the cold? Well, the first step is to check out day 16 of our Winter Training Advent Calendar...

106 Base Layer

The base layer is a vital part of your winter clothing. It sits next to the skin and needs to wick moisture (perspiration) away. It also needs to be relatively tight-fitting to avoid sweat pooling on the skin beneath it, lightweight and designed not to chafe.

Hundreds of different materials are available, from Helly Hansen’s LIFA to Nike’s Dry-Fit to natural merino wool blends. Cotton is the big one to avoid because it tends to hold moisture next to the skin long after you finish sweating, increasing heat loss exponentially and failing to dry out effectively.

107 Insulation Layer

Also known as the mid-layer, the insulation layer is that one that can be discarded if you get too warm from working too hard. Typically, an insulation layer is made out of a fleece-type fabric or, in more extreme weather, down or a synthetic equivalent. Like the base layer, for sporting purposes it needs to be lightweight and tight fitting. The insulation layer traps warm air between itself and your base layer.

108 Outer Layer

The windproof/waterproof layer keeps the warm air trapped between your base layer and insulation layer. Having vent zips in this layer is a very effective way of regulating temperature. For cycling, in particular, picking an outer layer that is big enough to go over the top but not so baggy as to act as a parachute is key. In moderate conditions, a windproof gilet can be a great outer layer, keeping your torso warm but allowing freedom of movement in the arms and shoulders for more strenuous activity.

109 Indoor Training

If you really want to do very high-intensity training when it’s extremely cold and icy, going outside is just plain daft. Get on the turbo, treadmill or in the pool instead. It’s far less risky to you muscles to run hard in the gym than on the track, and you’ll get a higher quality workout in the end.

110 Acclimatisation

There’s some evidence that repeated exposure to the cold can help. The body adapts in various ways, including increasing heat production without shivering; starting shivering earlier to increase muscular work; and shunting blood flow towards, or away from, the skin more effectively depending on the circumstances.

111 Work Rate

By increasing your pace and effort in the cold you’ll produce more heat and therefore cope much better. The theory has its limitations, and clashes with the idea of doing the kind of long, slow workouts that are often a staple of winter training. In practical terms, a short fast burst every few minutes on a long run or ride can raise your temperatures enough to stop you freezing and will be more effective than just plodding at the same pace all of the time.

112 Using the Wind

Wokring into a headwind will make you feel colder than moving with a tailwing because of the increased wind-chill factor. A sensible plan is to start facing out into the wind and work against it when you’re less sweaty, then come back with the wind behind you at the end of the training session.

Profile image of Matt Baird Matt Baird Editor of Cycling Plus magazine


Matt is a regular contributor to 220 Triathlon, having joined the magazine in 2008. He’s raced everything from super-sprint to Ironman, duathlons and off-road triathlons, and can regularly be seen on the roads and trails around Bristol. Matt is the author of Triathlon! from Aurum Press and is now the editor of Cycling Plus magazine.