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Cold weather offers new training opportunities

Q: "How is it training in the winter?" — SheriAnne N., Scottsdale, AZ

A: For me, "winter training" is a veritable oxymoron. I view the winter months as my "offseason" from triathlon training, using the downtime to decompress, regroup, recover and establish goals for the upcoming season. This does not mean, however, that I rack my bike after the last race of the season and call it a day until spring.

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During peak triathlon season, a typical week includes six to 10 swimming, cycling and running workouts — pending the race distance I'm training for — with one day of rest. This schedule leaves little time for cross-training or improving technique. But the reduction of swim, bike and run workouts to approximately one each per week during the offseason leaves at least three days to incorporate important cross-training activities, such as yoga, strength-training and hiking.

In other words, the cold, dark, snowy days of a mid-Atlantic winter encourage me to shake things up a bit and alter my usual routines to focus on areas of fitness that are otherwise neglected during the triathlon season.

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As outdoor and open water swimming is not an option in the winter, I instead enjoy the camaraderie of my Swim Fit class at the YMCA.

A home gym is where I set up my CycleOps Bike Trainer for indoor cycling sessions, use hand weights to build muscle strength and stability, and regularly practice and teach yoga. Running is the only triathlon discipline I continue outdoors year-round, though I often substitute hiking or walking during the offseason.

If you choose to exercise outdoors in the winter, the Mayo Clinic recommends dressing in layers, protecting your hands and feet, and paying attention to the forecast.

According to mayoclinic.org, "Temperature, wind and moisture, along with the length of time that you'll be outside, are key considerations in planning a safe cold-weather workout."

It's also important to wear reflective gear when it's dark outside and sunscreen during the day, especially if you're exercising in snow or at high altitudes, as you can get sunburned in the winter as easily as in the summer.

Also, remember to drink plenty of fluids. According to mayoclinic.org, "You can become just as dehydrated in the cold as in the heat from sweating, breathing, the drying power of the winter wind and increased urine production, but it may be harder to notice during cold weather."

As always, check with your doctor before exercising in cold weather, especially if you have asthma, heart problems, or Raynaud's disease, a rare disorder that causes the blood vessels, especially in the fingers and toes, to narrow in response to feeling cold or stressed.

Please email your fitness and health questions to me at leimlite@gmail.com or mail to:

As I See Fit

c/o The Advocate

115 Airport Drive, Suite 170

Westminster, MD 21157

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