Cold weather training for cyclists and runners

IMG_0840-300x224 If you are living in cold weather climates and are an endurance athlete it maybe time to bundle up. While I am writing this article it’s early fall in KY, the wind is blowing, it’s raining and it’s cold! Yuck! Man I am not looking forward to being out in this but there will come a point where riding my bike on a trainer and running on a treadmill will be to much to take and my sanity will require that I head outside.

I have some tactics, strategies and coping methods that have helped me greatly throughout the years that I would like to share with cyclists and runners.

Pain shared is pain lessened

Ride and run with friends! Getting out with friends who are willing to share in your misery will make things much more enjoyable. When riding in large groups make sure you take your turn at the front of pace lines. Hiding in the line to limit the effects of wind chill for an entire ride will be frowned upon. Running in large groups can have similar issues, just make sure that you help the group!


I can not stress this enough that cyclists and runners will need to dress in thin layers that can be easily shed over the course of a ride or run. I also find that if I am nice an warm at the start of a ride or run I am going to end up sweaty and chilled to the bone at the end. So its OK to go a little cold. You may want to experiment with your first few cold weather rides.

Items that really help for cycling:

  • Helmet covers
  • Hats, beanies and face masks worn under helmets
  • Sunglasses even when its grey outside, get yellow lenses
  • Insulated sport bottles
  • Lycra and wool base layer
  • Winter jacket with wind stopping material on the chest
  • Wind jacket for when its just sort of cold
  • Wind vest when it starts out cold but will warm up
  • Arm warmers
  • Long Sleeve jerseys
  • Long full finger gloves
  • Long bibs or tights to go over bib shorts
  • Leg warmers
  • Wool socks ROCK! Especially those made from Merino wool
  • Neoprene shoe covers ROCK!

Items that really help for running:

  • Hats, stocking caps, especially those made from Merino wool
  • Sunglasses even when its grey outside, get yellow lenses but not as critical for runners
  • Lycra and wool base layer
  • Long Sleeve jerseys
  • Windbreaker if its only sort of cold
  • Winter/fleece lined running jacket when it dips below freezing
  • Long full finger gloves
  • Chemical hand warmers can be a real life saver on a run or a ride for that matter
  • Wool socks ROCK! Especially those made from Merino wool
  • Trail running shoes are great if it gets extra sloppy

Eating and Drinking

One of the problems that endurance athletes have in the colder months is that we just are not as thirsty and sometimes not at hungry in the colder months. We still need to eat and drink! I take on calories for rides lasting longer that 1.5 hours and runs lasting longer than 40 minutes. Most outdoor rides and runs when done in the colder months are long steady distance and we don’t feel the urge to eat or drink. However colder temperatures will have us burning even more calories than when its warm out!

Your competitors are doing it

I promise you that your competitors are outside right now riding and or running in an effort to stay fit or develop even more fitness! Watch for Facebook and Strava posts about their outdoor exploits if you do not believe me! I have found personally that I at least get out side on the weekends as much as harsh weather will permit, especially late winter, that I have an easier time adapting to the cold and wet spring races. I have no empirical evidence that says that this type of exposure will indeed help you acclimate but it sure seems to help.

Timing of your ride and run

Get up early and you could be running and riding during the coldest part of the day. Wait a few hours and it could warm up. Which one sounds better to you? Also pay close attention to wind patterns where you ride and run. I know that where I live the that wind is usually flat in the mornings but picks ups late in the day. So while air temperatures may look better in the afternoon don’t forget about windchill. Windchill can be a serious problem for a cyclist!

Special equipment precautions

There are lots of things to think about with equipment when its cols. Batteries especially older IMG_0844-200x180batteries may fail you in your HR Monitor strap, foot pods, power meters, speed and cadence sensors and even rechargeable bike computers and running watches may loose power faster in the cold. Also be careful with sports drinks and the bottle you keep them in. Make sure you purchase BPA free sports bottles before pouring hot liquids into them as BPA can be leached into the fluid. BPA is known to cause hormone issues. Also remember that your bike may handle different in colder weather not to mention that road conditions are often different in the colder winter months. Things like grit, new pot holes, and black ice are all things to be watchful for.

After training considerations

Get home quickly and get out of that nasty damp/sweaty and cold kit. Get a hot shower ASAP and have something hot to drink waiting for you when you get home!

The photos used in this article were taken by me early in March during a snow shower. The photo is of yours truly making the run home to some hot French Press Coffee!

I hope you continue to enjoy the articles. Let me know what your go to items are for running and riding when it gets cold and sloppy. Just leave a comment.

Until next time,

Train Smarter Not Harder,

Coach Rob

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