Participating in a triathlon is both mentally and physically challenging. Adding cold weather into the mix with a winter triathlon takes it to another level.
Many people will choose to hibernate during the winter and train from the comfort of a heated indoor pool, exercise bike and treadmill.
However, if you are living in the UK, you will be aware that our weather is unpredictable and sudden rain or wind isn’t uncommon. So why not train yourself to participate regardless of the weather conditions? Plus it’s much more of an impressive story to share with others.
Below we share with you ideas on how to stay warm in a winter triathlon and various other winter triathlon tips.
Be Prepared for all Weathers/Conditions
It may sound quite obvious to tell you to prepare for any weather and environment conditions. This is at the top of our lists because often people assume this means checking the weather forecast the morning of the race and taking an extra jacket along with you.
This could not be further from the truth. Staying warm in a winter triathlon requires months of training, planning and organisation.
Don’t get us wrong, checking the weather forecast is important, and you should check it often, including the morning of the race so you can mentally prepare.To be prepared for a winter triathlon you should practise swimming in cold open water. If you are new to open water swimming, we recommend reading an open water swimming guide to learn essential safety skills.
Practising your swimming techniques in cold water counts as exposure therapy for your body. This helps your body get used to swimming in colder temperatures and can help avoid a shock on race day. During this process be sure to work on your breath control as this is always affected by cold water.
Other ways to prepare and stay warm include doubling up on your swimming cap. This will keep your head safe from developing a ‘brain freeze’ and prevent the cold from slowing you down.
One of our biggest winter triathlon tips is to read all the rules and information available regarding the race and weather conditions. This will keep you prepared for any changes that might be made and can help you set your personal limits in terms of participation.
For the cycling portion of the race, we recommend removing some air from your tires before setting off. Removing air gives your bike a better grip on surfaces that may be wet or slippery, this also gives you better control of your bike.
The question of how to stay warm in a winter triathlon is easily addressed through engaging in a warm up. This could be achieved by donning a cosy robe and fluffy hat for as long as you can before the race starts. But this can also be done through typical body warm ups.
This includes doing a little warm up run or jog while waiting for the winter triathlon to begin. This will keep you warm while also preparing both your body and mind for the start of the race.
Before the commencement of the swimming section it can be tempting to get into the water to help your body adjust to the temperature beforehand. This will not help your body with staying warm in a winter triathlon and will in fact do the opposite, make you colder for longer than you need to be.
Instead we recommend splashing or dunking just your face in the water. This will prepare your body without prolonging the effects of the cold water.
Essentials for Swimming in Cold Water
Swimming in cold water while simultaneously figuring out how to stay warm in a winter
triathlon is a confusing thing.
We have simplified our winter triathlon tips for staying warm while swimming in cold water.
● Wear a wetsuit (a one piece is the best option for coverage and protection)
● Wear a neoprene hat (alongside another swimming cap)
● Wear earplugs (keep water out so your core temperature doesn’t drop)
Here are some extra tips that will help you in general after leaving the water:
● Have protective and warming socks ready to change into
● Keep your shoes in a plastic bag (avoids rainwater gathering and soaking them)
● Place a plastic cover over your bike
These tips will help you with staying warm in a winter triathlon when you make the transition
from swimming to cycling.
What to Wear for Running & Cycling in the Cold
Below we have summarised our winter triathlon tips that will help you stay warm during the running and cycling portion of the winter triathlon.
● Add leg warmers under your wetsuit
● Add arm warmers under your wetsuit
● Invest in a pair of gloves
● Add a cycling jacket over your trisuit
● Put a hat on when running
● Use a helmet while cycling
In short, layers are the key to staying warm in a winter triathlon. These layers should be easy
to remove if needed to avoid overheating.
Hydration & Nutrition
Using an insulated bottle can provide you with hydration and warmth. It is possible to take drink breaks if you are not too fussed on your overall timing.
Cold weather often tricks us into thinking we do not want a drink but want lots of food. Make sure you are staying properly hydrated and indulging in nutritious snacks before and during and after events.
Some winter triathlon nutrition essentials include:
● Energy gels
● Hydration gels
● Protein bars
● Energy bars
You may even want to drink a hot beverage before starting the first event to raise your body temperature, keeping you warm for a short period of time.
Post Triathlon Race
Taking care of your body and mind is vital to your recovery. You must ensure you have a pair of warm, dry clothes to change into immediately and it doesn’t hurt to also have a hot drink waiting for you at the finish line.
Including lip balm in your post race ritual is one of our winter triathlon tips you will be thanking us for in the future. This helps soothe chapped lips after experiencing brutal weather.
Changing from your trainers into cosy shoes such as uggs will help not only warm your feet but your entire body. And yes the uggs will get ruined with the rain and mud but it’s totally worth it, we promise.
Partaking in a winter triathlon is a huge achievement, whether you finish first or you throw in the towel half way through. You still deserve a huge warm congratulations meal.