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Home / News / 220’s Winter Training Advent Calendar (Part 17)

220’s Winter Training Advent Calendar (Part 17)

Yesterday we told you how to keep warm when training outside this winter, today we tell you why...

113 Reduced Muscle Function

As your body gets cold, nerve impulses move more slowly, and below about 12°C manual dexterity starts to deteriorate if hands are not protected by gloves. This can make changing an inner tube in sub-zero conditions an agonising process. Furthermore, maximal force production in muscles is compromised at low temperatures (reduced by as much as 80% at -22°C) so training at high intensity becomes less productive – even impossible.

114 Reduced Cognitive Function

Some of the symptoms of hypothermia are confusion and disorientation, slurred speech and mood changes as the brain struggles to cope with the drop in temperature. This makes the condition particularly dangerous because the measure required to prevent getting worse require logical thought and purposeful action.

115 Frost Nip and Frostbite

In order to maintain core body temperature (important for protection of the brain and vital organs), the body responds to the cold by reducing blood flow to the extremities (such as toes, fingers, ear lobes). These areas then cool rapidly and are at risk of frost nip, which, if left untreated, can turn into frostbite as the tissue temperature drops below freezing.

116 Dehydration

In the cold you lose water to the atmosphere through exhalation as you breathe Coupled with the fact that you tend to pee more in the cold, dehydration can occur. It’s often exacerbated because people perceive they need less fluid in the cold or drink less because cool liquids are less palatable.

117 Torn or Pulled Muscles

Muscles are more pliable in higher temperatures. Less blood flow to the muscles and more heat lost to the environment means lower working temperatures and increased susceptibility to tears and strains, especially if you’re pushing hard.

118 Ice on the roads

This is more of an indirect issue, but crashing a road bike, slipping on a sheet of black ice when running or, worse, being hit by a sliding car tend to result in painful injuries at best. Being sensible about choosing how and when to train in the extreme cold and using indoor options when approriate are all part of getting the most out of winter training and staying in one piece.

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.