Following my last entry about lifting in a cold garage, I received several additional questions. Based on the volume of inquiries, it appears that a follow up is necessary. I’ll address the most commonly asked questions here.
For starters, the previous entry dealt solely with heavy weight lifting in a frigid garage. I lift in a garage where it is not unusual for the temperatures to approach zero degrees Fahrenheit. Ironically, the same garage is often hot and humid throughout the summer. It was just a few months ago that we were training in temperatures that were 90+ degrees with high humidity. As a result, many people have asked if I alter my training based on the weather. The answer is yes.
I never spend much time warming up. Since my early days as an athlete, I’ve always been able to jump right into the heart of my training. This is particularly true in the summer when I’m already warm upon entering the gym. The winter months do call for some modifications however. I don’t perform as well initially if I’m not warm upon entering the frigid garage.
What works for me is to raise my body temperature before entering the garage. As mentioned before, I always dress in layers with particular attention directed to the hands, feet, and head. I bundle up inside my home and begin warming up there.
When bundled up accordingly, it only takes a few minutes of movement to raise my body temperature. My preferred activities are light calisthenics and shadow boxing. I don’t time myself or perform any specific routine. My objective is simple. Move until I feel warm. After a few minutes, I proceed to the garage. The cold air is much easier to handle when I begin warm. If I enter the gym without the pre-house warm-up, it takes much longer for me to perform optimally.
If you’ve followed this site for any amount of time, you know that heavy lifting is just one piece of my training puzzle. I do much more than lift. One of my preferred conditioning activities is to jump rope. Unfortunately, most jump ropes are not built for extreme cold. I use a PVC freestyle rope for skipping. When left in extreme cold, the PVC tends to stiffen. A frozen rope will not turn as well and it is more likely to snap.
The solution is to bring the rope inside when not in use. I always hang my personal rope indoors. On days that I plan to skip rope, I bring the rope into the garage but it is never there for long. An hour or two is not enough time to freeze the rope. A brief demonstration of winter skipping can be seen below. As you’ll see, the rope performs quite well in the cold temps.
And while on the subject of cold weather skipping, it is worth reminding the fighters out there to bring their ropes indoors at night. Speaking from experience, I see many fighters leave their gym bags in the car overnight. They may train in a warm gym, but the ropes are still frozen upon entry. Doing this repeatedly can shorten the life of your rope. It’s best to bring it inside if possible.
If you’ve watched any of my Youtube videos, you will notice several resistance bands hanging on the back wall. Take a look below if you are new to the site.
I am a big fan of resistance bands for a variety of exercises. Unfortunately, the bands experience similar problems as the PVC ropes. When temperatures drop to extreme levels, the bands tend to stiffen as well. They are still useable, but noticeably different in terms of feel. As a result, I use the bands much less during the winter months. If I have plans for bands on a given day, I bring a few indoors overnight. I don’t bring them all in and out like the jump rope however as it is inconvenient to store so many bands inside.
Following my last entry, a few readers mentioned that they bring their kettlebells inside to stay warm in between workouts. Another reader mentioned that he lifts with plated loaded dumbbells. He brings the handles inside when not in use. Such an approach may be feasible for some. It is worth mentioning as an option for those who train with similar tools. Personally, I’d love to bring my weights indoors to stay warm at night but it’s not an option with several thousand pounds. Once again though, if you use a single dumbbell or kettlebell, it may be worth dragging it inside at night.
As mentioned before, I prefer performing many lifts with bare hands. The best gloves in the world will not be as effective as bare hands on the bar. With that said, there are certainly many exercises where gloves can be worn without interference. While training in a cold garage, I wear gloves more often than not. I wear gloves for many bodyweight movements, conditioning activities, lower body work, and even certain pushing movements. I take the gloves off for heavy pulling movements (ex. deadlifts, rows, and snatches).
If you opt for a similar approach, I encourage you to try before you buy. I wouldn’t purchase gloves online. If you wish to exercise with gloves, it is important that they have a snug fit. Gloves that are too large will cause interference and could be potentially dangerous with an overhead lift. Whatever you use, you need to have a secure grip. Personally, I prefer a glove that is both warm yet allows for comfortable and secure gripping.
I also use another pair of gloves that are much heavier and virtually useless for precise gripping. I wear these gloves in between sets of heavy lifting. During cold weather conditioning activities, I tend to limit rest in between sets to stay warm. When lifting maximal loads however, more rest is obviously needed between sets. The extended down time means more time for the hands to become cold. Heavy winter gloves are life savers during such times.
These are just a few tips that I have found useful after many years of training in a cold environment. Those with additional ideas or suggestions are encouraged to comment below. I’m sure there are readers of the site who will benefit from the experience of other cold weather veterans.
“Enjoying success requires the ability to adapt. Only by being open to change will you have a true opportunity to get the most from your talent.” – Nolan Ryan
Hi Ross, great advice, thank you. I workout in my basement (in cold) – what advice do you have about sweating? I dress in layers but I sweat a lot… sweat comes through all the layers even when I dress with double sweater etc.
I recently caught cold (running nose, coughing) and I tend to believe that my sweating has increased my “illness”.
@Milos – Consider following the layered approach referenced in this entry: http://rosstraining.com/blog/2013/12/16/training-in-the-cold/ The first layer should be for wicking. A good wicking shirt can make a big difference.
Headed out to the garage!! Hat,sweatshirt, and an old lined jean jacket that I love. I wear fingerless leather bicycle gloves. I have a milk barn heater perched on the dryer that I turn on first thing when I get out there. I stand in front of that in between sets for the first twenty mins if I have to. Then I turn it off. All warmed up!!
I also train in my garage – hot summer training and freezing in the winter. Dressing in layers helps, and sometimes I’ll even throw my sweatshirt in the dryer for 10 min before I start, just to get it really warm. I don’t train with gloves, I like to get a solid grip on the bar. However, I do use chalk and find that to be helpful when handling frozen barbells and dumbbells.
Also try throwing your sweatshirt and hat in the dryer for 10 min before you start training. It’ll get real warm and help conserve your body heat.
All done and yes it was most excellent! I forgot to say that I pound down three cups of hot coffee before I go out there. Can’t do it without the caffeine and the hot warm liquid!
@Ross – Thanks so much, I’ll definitely try it out!
I am truly overwhelmed how you are capable of such tasks and exercise and so I want to know if doing quick sprints for a small amount of time will make you stronger physically and won’t make you loose your muscular gains and strength could you reply to my question please
Of course you can run and maintain strength. Look at the athletes from last weekend’s Superbowl as a prime example. They all run and they are all strong.
In terms or gloves the best and least expensive are workman gloves from the hardware store, Home Depo has quite a few options and those are gloves that workers by, they are not marketed sales that sell because they have a name brand, construction workers and workman wear them and use them because they work, I found them to be as good as some of my favorite gloves and and better than most. The other really comfortable gloves are cycles gloves. You know they work good because they are meant to be worn for a long time, but the stitching isn’t that great.