Get Ready for Winter
I love teaching outdoors. I truly believe that we are happier and healthier when we get to spend decent portions of everyday outdoors. But I live in Scotland. As a result - there are about 6 months of the year where the weather is so poor that it can be incredibly difficult to convince a rational person that spending time outdoors will be good for them.
But this winter is going to be very different from previous years. The Covid pandemic is forcing changes in behaviour and limiting how we can interact. The virus seems to thrive in enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces - so it makes sense that we should be considering how to move more of our lives outdoors in order to keep ourselves and our society safe.
So how can we better adapt ourselves and our community for being outdoors during winter? Below I’ve put together a short ‘how to’ on being outdoors during winter. Focusing on some practical steps you can take now.
Protection from Cold
The major reason most people don’t like wintery weather is because they end up cold and chilled. The simplest way to fix that is to make sure you are properly dressed. I realise that a major concern people have is about the cost of good clothing. But if there was a year for you to splash out and spend a few hundred pounds on clothes - then this is it. They will completely alter your experience of cold weather.
Get used to base layers and begin wearing them early. Thermal underwear - both leggings and a compression t-shirt can keep you warm and they can be relatively cheap. The cheap stuff can be a bit scratchy though - and size is more important than in other clothes as it can be a bit suffocating if it’s a little small on you. I wear thermals from November - March pretty much everyday and it makes winter much easier to deal with. I can often be seen in just a thermal tshirt while training outdoors and feel pretty good.
After your base layer - wear a few different mid layers such as a t-shirt, a light jumper and then a heavier one. During the warm-up - shed layers as needed and then remember to put them all back on at the START of the cool down. Put clothes on while you are warm. Don’t wait until you’ve lost all the body heat to start wrapping up again.
Protection from Rain
Scottish weather also makes it important that you get good waterproof outer layers. This is where you’ll spend most of your money. A decent waterproof jacket will keep you warm in the most terrible weather. But the flip side is that they last for years. My outer layer is 10 years old now and I’m only now considering replacing it. While spending £100-200 may seem like a huge outlay of money - it can be worth it for something that you’ll likely be using regularly for the better part of a decade. Waterproof trousers may also be a boon this year.
Remember that you are likely to want to be able to do a decent amount of movement in your rain jacket - so consider a running jacket or hillwalking jacket that is designed to allow more freedom of movement over a thicker and heavier coat that you might struggle to wear during the warm up.
Wrapped up in thermal underwear - 4 base layers and an expensive raincoat you are unlikely to be cold no matter what weather scotland throws at you. But wait - there’s more.
Get used to being cold
Wim Hof is an eccentric Dutchman who has set multiple records for his ability to expose himself to the cold. Surviving plunges into freezing cold water and climbing mountains in just a pair of shorts.
Turns out human beings are a lot more resilient than you might imagine and it’s perfectly possible for all of us to adapt and even thrive in cold temperatures. We’re just not used to it. Wim Hof happily shares many of the basics online on how to adjust to the cold and it only takes a couple of weeks to get started and be able to endure temperatures you really didn’t expect.
This summer - many of the Access Parkour coaches decided to give it a go - starting with 15 second cold showers and building up to 20 minute dips into the sea every morning. We were honestly amazed at how quickly we all adjusted to the frigid temperatures and are actively looking forward to the idea of colder water and happily discussing if we could get an ice bath for Room to Move.
Start simple: Have a 15 second cold shower at the end of your regular shower and build up to a couple of minutes. Don’t push it. Take your time and learn to enjoy it. Keep your breathing calm and put your hands and feet in before the rest of your body. I really enjoy my cold showers and it only takes a few weeks to adapt to this seemingly quirky notion. I tend to find leaving a hot shower causes you to instantly start your morning cold - as your body was used to the hot water. Conversely, starting every day with a cold shower gets you fired up and awake. It will totally change your experience and expectation of cold weather.
Properly fueling your body is going to be incredibly important if you want it to be capable of keeping your core temperature up outdoors. Big hearty meals an hour before exercise and also afterwards will go a long way to providing your body with the fuel it needs in order to keep you moving all winter. That extra bit of body fat is also likely to insulate you and keep you a little warmer. If you are someone who struggles to put weight on - then really focus on eating regularly, while if you are someone who struggles to lose weight - this winter might be a good time to focus on increasing the intensity of your workouts instead of restricting your calorie intake in order to keep yourself at a good weight.
Mindset plays such an important part in our experience and going into winter looking forward to the challenge of the cold and the rain will do wonders for the experience you have. But dressing properly, practicing every day with cold showers and making sure you have eaten properly will go a long way to improving your odds of having a positive experience as we move into the cold weather season.
What do you think? Are you looking forward to the cold? Or are you thinking of hibernating instead? Know any other great cold busting tips? Let me know in the comments.