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  • Writer's pictureDion Finocchiaro

Surviving Northern Hemisphere Winter

Updated: Dec 22, 2022

By Evolve coach Clint Perrett


Recently my family and I relocated from the shores of Australia to Canada with the goal to experience life in the ‘Great White North’; home of my wife and her extended family.

The move itself was a logistical challenge, but we settled well with people around to help and perfect mid-Summer weather to enjoy! The mood has slowly changed as the Winter has begun to set in and as such I thought it may be worth sharing my recent experiences and possible tips of staying active when the snow hits and we are forced inside.

In my brief time here in Canada, I have discovered that the locals like to talk about two main topics…. the weather…. and hockey (the ice version!)

I now see why the weather is such a talking point as once there is snow, ice, driveway ploughing, plugging in of cars and purchasing of adequate winter gear, it definitely shapes the way we can go about our day to day activities.


In an exercise sense, coming from a part of the world where many days of the year it is ok (and safe) to get outside to exercise, the last few weeks have tested my ability to adapt to the new surrounds.

One of the main challenges of the changed weather conditions was that it happened in a matter of days. One day I was outside after dinner pedalling my bike watching the sunset, the next day, it was sliding all over the road as I drove the car, due to the 30cm of snow that had fallen overnight!

With that, I have taken stock and formulated a plan on how, going forward, we may be able to navigate staying fit and active during the Winter months. Below are some tips and ideas that I think may help someone living through deep Winter seasons as well as incorporating how to stay motivated.



Gear:

Make sure you have the right gear, and enough of it. The goal if running outdoors in subzero temperatures is to have most of the body covered. My go to in minus 5 and below (I won’t go out any colder than minus 10 though!) is thick leggings/tights (not the thin layered ones, but a few millimeters thick or even running waterproof pants), thin material beanie (that covers the ears), light gloves, running shirt or long sleeve with a Gore-Tex jacket over the top, longer socks (not ankle socks, at least part way up the calf if possible) and of course adequate running shoes. I have recently bought myself a pair of Nike Pegasus trail shoes that have a more rugged outer, waterproof, somewhat insulated, and features better grip than your standard running shoe.

I didn’t think I would need these, but have taken to running in these, even on the footpaths, as the snow, slush and ice can sometimes still be around and more grip is better. You could even consider studded hook on snow/ice cleats (pictured) if you are heading out on the trails. These are like studded tires, but hook around your shoe. They do an amazing job but if you hit cleared footpaths/roads, can turn into skates!


Safety:

The biggest issue with exercise in Winter has to be the surface you are running on and the actual temperature (‘feels like’ is usually colder again). It is not smart to be out there breathing in freezing air anything below -10 Celsius and definitely not if the roads are icy. The ice is worse than the snow as it is often hard to notice and can be hidden under a layer of snow. The best option is to wait for the ‘warmest’ part of the day to run and preferably when you have some light so you can spot these hazards. The speed you are running out there will have to be factored in too and you may need to dial back the pace to account for the conditions. A continuous warm up, with minimal standing around pre and post session is key to ensure you don’t stand around in sweaty clothes and start freezing.



Indoor options

Having a good set up indoors is essential. I have recently set up my indoor bike at home and have access to a high quality treadmill and gym equipment through the school I am employed at. This is a great Plan B when outside is not an option. You can still get your heart rate elevated, without taking any risks outside and now days with access to distractions in the ears, or to watch, the time can go by much quicker than prior to Zwift, Netflix, Podcasts, YouTube and watching sport replays.



Goals

When it is dark, cold and dreary outside, it can be hard to find the motivation to put in the work. Aside from the fact of maintaining a regular routine for physical and mental health, having your goals clearly set as a carrot to keep you moving is essential. When the current season wraps up and the Winter block commences, I like to spend a month or so just moving through base training and some varied cross training options before sitting down and setting some goals with the racing calendar in front of me. It is best to choose you ‘A’ priority race and work backwards through some build up events/races to that target. Having a timeline can help you maintain structure and incorporate sessions that build on each other as you move from base, to build and then specific training blocks. You can also mix in the rest/recovery block into the plan as well as when you might try a ‘warm weather escape’ to get in some quality training in more conducive weather.

When we lived in Europe, it used to be a visit to Spain or Portugal to break up the Winter. Now we are in North America it might need to be something closer to the Equator in the southern parts of the USA or Central America? Either way, that can be a great way to count down towards these trips and the fitness benefits from them can jump you up a level in your training from the increased stimulus.


I was always told, ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad preparation’, I tend to agree with that as long as you consider the safety aspects of exercising outside. Since experiencing the first taste of Canadian Winter, factoring in the alternative options indoors can be a way to maintain your fitness levels during the colder months and work on other fitness areas during this time to ensure you become the best version of yourself as possible.

For those living in the warmer climes of Australia, remember never take for granted the ideal weather you live in year round, go and get out there and get amongst it!

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