By Peter Doucet
Peter Doucet wears balaclava and googles while skating an ice marathon on a frozen lake.
As I write this, it's 29 degrees (F) here in Mississauga, Ontario. A little cold, maybe. But not cold enough to keep me off my skates.
One thing I've learned here in Canada is that with the right gear and attitude, you can keep training outdoors even in the coldest weather.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Keep your feet warm
Feet are usually the first causualties of cold weather, as any short- or long-track skater can tell you.
The solution is boot covers, which are essentially rain slickers for your feet. They keep wind and water out and add an extra layer of insulation. The result is toasty toes.
Protect your hands
Fingers are also touchy in cold weather. Wearing gloves is the obvious fix. But on a truly cold day, gloves alone are not enough. I wear insulated windproof mittens over Under Armour ColdGear glove liners. My hands think it's July.
A long-sleeve jersey is not going to fend off the winter wind. My rule for really cold days is to wear three layers of protection. The first layer should be a warm base layer, which is like a jersey but warmer and designed to wick moisture away from your skin. (I like the base layers made by Helly Hansen).
Over your base, wear an insulating or thermal layer. This could be a wool sweater or a high-tech fleece.
Finally, you'll need a wind- and waterproof layer, typically a lightweight jacket.
Now you're ready to skate the North Pole.
Face the music
Unless you've got Chewbacca-like facial hair, you'll need something on the coldest days to protect your face. I like balaclavas, which are those hats that cover most of your face. Just be sure to remove it before you stop in at a convenience store or someone may call the police.
Avoid frozen brains
Helmets are designed for warm weather. That's the reason for all the air vents. As a result, on a cold day, your helmet is no help.
You can try wearing a hat underneath it. But you may not have enough room. Or you could buy one of those short-track helmet covers, although they look pretty silly. My recommendation is to buy one of the scull caps for cyclists. They fit under the helmet and do a good job keeping the gray matter warm.
Keep your lips kissable
Winter — with it's combination of cold, wind, sun and, in some areas, salt — is tough on lips. But you'll be fine if you take preventative measures. Before you go out, slather your lips with some Chap-Stick, petroleum jelly or other lip balm. If that doesn't work, try Blistex's Lip Medex. It's the only thing that soothes my chapped lips.
Upgrade your eye gear
Sunglasses are fine for reasonable conditions. But on Artic days, you'll want goggles. They cover your eyes, shield a large part of your face, and usually don't fog up.
Protect your nether regions
This one is for the guys. It's no good when your "man parts" freeze. Believe me. Ouch!
Once again the solution is layers. Wear windproof underwear and a pair of warm tights. If that's not enough, tape activated heat packs into your underwear.
Have a backup plan
On some days, it may just be too brutally cold to train outside. In that case, switch to Plan B.
Peter Doucet is a veteran speed skater and the webmaster of Speed Skate World. A resident of Mississauga, Ontario, he has represented Canada in seven World Championships and at the 2007 Pan American Games in Brazil. He founded the Toronto International Inline Race Weekend and the RSO Speed Points Series. He is also a coach of the Toronto Inline Skating Club. His hobbies include writing and performing music, cycling, watching movies, going out with friends, and cooking.
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