Outdoor HIT – Too Cold?

I just got back from a very cold day at my gym. My gym is a neighborhood playground where I do a workout that I describe in the post Escaping the Glitter: Taking High Intensity Training Outdoors. It was 41 degrees today with a 10 mile an hour wind, which made it “feel like 35 degrees”. I’m thinking that I found the lower boundary for my outdoor workouts. It was too cold today.


Photo by Ben

One of the reasons I left the Glitter Gym was that they kept the temperature in the gym too warm. From the post No Longer a Gym Germaphobe:

People continually confuse sweat with intensity. If you are sweating it is because your body is trying to cool you down. The resources and energy that could have been used for deeper muscle recruitment have been shifted to temperature regulation and now are a limiting factor in generating more intensity.

Today I think I found the flip side to this rule. If you are too cold, the body will devote resources to staying warm that could be used for deeper muscle recruitment. Those resources might just be mental, but I discovered that even after an extended warm up period, I was too cold to completely focus on the exercises. My time under load was decreased. My hands were frozen and my feet were cold as well. I should have brought gloves. Maybe I should milk another free week pass at a new Glitter Gym until spring comes? 🙂


Add yours

  1. Do you wear a wool shirt? The heavier Icebreaker or Ibex long-sleeve jobs make 35 feel like 45 or 50 and don’t get in the way of anything. One of those, plus a shell vest (for the wind) and a wool hat and gloves, and I can work out outside in the teens no problem.

  2. @Alex – No I didn’t. I was really hoping I would have to gear up. Thankfully it doesn’t get in the teens around here. If it did, I’d either move south or head back to the Glitter Gym. 🙂

  3. How is your training going otherwise? Have you noticed any changes, for example, in strength and muscle size; do you anticipate that you will eventually have to resort to additional resistance for the pushups and pullups, or do the static-hold finishers seem sufficient to stimulate growth with bodyweight alone?

    I was inspired to perform a similar routine when I read BBS, but without the static holds. Time to attempt to familiarize myself with moment arm and the Max Pyramid protocol…

  4. @GH – This is all uncharted territory for me. Things are going well so far. I haven’t taken any measurements. For me it is more about hitting that same level of failure that I did in the gym.

    If I start to get too good at the static hold, I can increase the number of reps I do in the pre-fatigue stage. My way isn’t an exact Max Pyramid, which involves static holds at different weights. Since I am in a body weight environment, I am restricted to one “weight”, which is why I use it as a finisher.

  5. Back when I used to be a runner, I noticed this happened to me a lot too. At first, the cold actually helped you run farther… but once it got too cold your lungs just started to hurt and it became a distraction.

    Not surprised to see the same thing happens with HIT exercises

  6. I was interested that you said you got too hot in the gym, Michael. I always found it too hot also, despite air con, and would often open an outer door to get some fresh air in. You’re right – people do relate sweating to intensity; I did too. I have also quit my gym (as of 6 weeks ago) and immediately wondered about the wisdom of that – it is summer in Australia. I have found that if I get my workout finished by about 8.30 to 9AM in this unseasonably cool summer, it is over before the humidity starts rising. In a normal summer I’d need to be finished by about 8AM at latest. I do kettlebell workouts on the verandah and lawn for between 25 and 60 mins at a time, and a hill sprint session a week, and I am really looking forward to winter because of the heat factor. Our winters are nothing like yours….

    Thanks for your great blog. I love the idea of urban hikes (I live on the far outer edge of Sydney and an urban hike here would take 15 mins and you’d have covered all the suburbia there is); however, my husband and I plan to take an urban hike this weekend in Tasmania when we visit Hobart, and document it with photos. A great idea when travelling!

  7. @Mary – I have to admit that if I lived in a warm section of the USA, like Florida, I’d be back in the gym in a second. A summer in Sydney does sound hot.

    I’ve never been to Australia, but I have visited your neighbor New Zealand, where I did many miles (kilometers) of urban hiking in Auckland.

  8. Do you have access to a porch or unheated indoor room where you could work out on the chilly days? An unheated enclosed area might retain enough heat to bump the temperature up into the most productive zone.

    Also, I wonder whether time under load should be viewed in isolation. If the cold represents an additional stressor, then perhaps you should consider it as additional resistance. You’d expect your time under load to decrease if you added a weight vest, so it may not be a problem for time under load to decrease when you’re experiencing environmental stress. Perhaps it’s not optimal, but maybe not a problem either.

    One great benefit of your system is that with the infrequency of your work outs you should be able to just wait an extra day or two for the weather to warm up a little. Is it unusual to have a full week of temperatures in the 40s in Seattle at this time of year?

  9. @Geoff – I can be on the look out for an unheated indoor room. Nothing comes to mind right now.

    I think the take away lesson for me this week is that I need to respect both the temperature and wind speed. If it is sunny, 44 and no wind – that is perfect. If is raining, 44 and windy – that kind of sucks.

    My issue is I love working out in the AM, but during this season that is not ideal for Outdoor HIT. Now I need to find pockets of sunshine, which happen more frequently in the PM.

  10. Yep. Balancing temperature, time and sunshine!

    Being forced to workout in my Flat in the Winter has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I thought at first I would hate it and might not be able to get focused enough … but that’s not the case at all. When Spring and Fall roll around I basically have to decide between the inside and outside workouts. I, of course, prefer to do them outdoors if I can, but it just depends on the day. Either way, I know how to get my licks in.

    With you being in Seattle, I imagine that you might not have to resort at all to the indoor routine … as long as you pay attention to your ‘take away lesson’ of this post. Still, it might not be a bad idea to start looking at your Flat with ‘playground’ eyes. Just for the odd day or two.

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