Lifting weights in a cold garage - How to do it!
January 11th 2019
I have been lifting in a cold garage for over four years now. But sometimes I thought about this, how do I lift weights in a cold garage?
Lifting weights in a cold garage may not seem ideal. It is uncomfortable and it seems like a bad idea altogether. However, there are some tips and tricks I discovered and researched to make lifting weights in the cold less miserable. Some of these strategies involve using a portable heater, wearing multiple layers, being mentally prepared, stay moving and even protecting some of your equipment indoors.
Sometimes in life, the cards may not be in your favor… if you look at it in that perspective. Maybe your biggest problem in life may turn into the missing link you need to elevate your training to the next level.
So, what should you do if you need to lift weights in a cold garage? I also have an outdoor garage, where I lift weights in. In the summer, it gets very hot and in the winter, it can be brutally cold. While I do find that lifting weights in very hot weather is more difficult than lifting weights in the cold, it is still no easy task. So, I decided to share some information about what I found worked well for me as well as other recommendations I found from other lifters who lift in tundra-like conditions.
I dress like how I would be if I am training outside. So, wearing layers is the best strategy that works. Wearing your thick winter jacket or coat is not ideal as it will most likely interfere with your workout. For example, if you are strength training or powerlifting, doing barbell or dumbbell work with your big winter coat does not make any sense.
So, dress in layers. Get some warm socks. Use a hat if you want. I do not wear gloves as I need to continue to train main lifts and gloves would only get in the way. However, if you are not doing any barbell work that requires your grip strength, you may find that wearing gloves to do other exercises like calisthenics and lifting odd objects, may be more comfortable and reasonable. In between sets, you can wear heavy gloves to warm up your hands.
But some of you may ask, what should I wear specifically? So, I will share what I found works well for me and for a lot of other cold gym lifters out there in the world. It is recommended that you should wear at least 3 layers minimum before going out:
- Your first layer should be a lightweight, synthetic material that wicks away any moisture. Your first layer of clothing should definitely not be cotton, as cotton will trap moisture close to your body, which increases your risk of hypothermia
- Your other layers will vary, depending on how long you stay out in the cold. For cold garage strength training barbell workouts, you will probably stay no longer than two hours. So, I can get away with a T-shirt, sweater and a lightweight, water repellent, wind resistant jacket, totaling 4 layers. If I were to stay out for longer, I would definitely wear another layer of fleece for more warmth.
- For other workouts that put you in the cold for longer durations of time, you will definitely err on the safer side and wear 1-2 layers of wool and fleece after your 1st layer. Then, you wear a lightweight, weatherproof jacket, which also totals 3-4 layers
Get a portable heater
If you have a portable space heater lying around at home, this is a perfect opportunity to put it in use. Though it will not make your entire garage warm, it may temporarily give you some peace of mind, which is priceless.
Use a hair dryer to warm up the barbell
Yes, the barbell and metal plates I have in my home gym are very cold in the winter. But after a while of moving some weight around, you will adjust to the cold bar and plates. However, where I live in New York, it does not get super cold until other parts in the world. In that case, one of your best bets is to use a hair dryer to warm up the barbell. Use the hair dryer for a minute or two before your very first set. You will find that you may not need to warm up the bar after that since your hands are both adjusting to the cold and warming up the barbell.
Keep moving around
This is one of my favorite tactics. Not really a favorite if it is one of your only choices though… As humans, we are programmed to move around and not freeze to death. So, why not follow our human instincts when we are in the cold gym? Pacing around or just moving your body will distract you from the harsh cold. You will get used to breathing in cold air and will be more mobile when you are doing your working sets.
Bring the barbell indoors
After your workout, you can leave your barbell indoors so that it does not get cold and uncomfortable to grip. This is one strategy if you absolutely hate cold barbells.
Do more warmups
Just like moving around, this will help you get adjusted to your environment. It will suck at first. Heck, it might even feel like cold hell. But keep on moving and do not forget your purpose for training in the cold gym.
Mentally preparing yourself
It is going to be cold. You know that part. So, embrace the challenge. Know that you are training to get stronger and this is one obstacle in your path of success. Will you let that stop you?
It is definitely not fun to train in the cold. So, stay focused and get your training done. This can be a good opportunity to shorten your rest times and really push your strength limits.
And if you do not believe that you can adjust to the cold, consider this. If you lived in a cold climate area, you have probably shoveled snow. As you may notice, when you first started to shovel snow, you are cold, your joints are stiff and you generally feel terrible. You just have not adjusted to the cold temperature yet. Thirty minutes later, you find your body warm and you are shoveling snow at a faster rate. You may even need to remove a layer or two of clothing since you are working up a sweat from shoveling. The same concept of warming up applies to training in the gym. You need to get used to the cold and your workouts should be more tolerable.
Working out in the cold benefits
Working out in the cold also has its benefits. Though comfort is definitely not one of its strength, here are some reasons why you shouldn’t mind working out in your cold gym.
Improvement in aerobic capacity
Challenging your body in the cold weather is a great way to train your heart and lungs to be more efficient. Your body is working harder to keep your body temperature up and as a result, you can strengthen your work capacity.
Burning more calories
Your body does not like change. So, when you train in an unfavorable environment, the body needs to work much harder to get back to a comfortable level. So, if you train in the extreme cold, your body will work harder, helping you burn a bit more calories. It will not be a drastic amount of calories but it is some extra benefit to motivate you.
Remainder to warm up
If you were in a warmer climate or season, you may be lazy to skip the warm-ups. However, in the cold, your body may be more stiff more often. So, it is even more important to get your body warmed up and ready to tackle on your working sets. After all, nobody will recommend you do a heavy set of squats or deadlifts if you are frozen like a popsicle.
May help reduce your flu risk
There are some research studies done that revealed how exercising in the cold may help reduce your flu risk during the winter. This can be helpful for people who need to take control of their lives and promote better lifestyle habits.
Working out in a cold gym dangers
While I try to research and share information with you about all the good news of working out in the cold gym, there is always the opposite side of the coin. No one likes to hear good news. But it would be irresponsible to completely ignore the risks associated with working out in your cold gym. There is a reason why almost all competitions are held indoors with moderately warm temperatures. Our bodies have one less thing to worry about than the annoying cold weather.
Muscle tears can happen
As the temperature plummets below freezing and well below, our body will react to try to adjust for that. Our muscles and tendons will become less flexible and tighten up naturally in cold weather. This is one reason why it is essential to warm up properly and to make sure your body is ready for more intense, heavy sets. Elevating your heart rate and moving more are good ways to make sure that your body doesn’t tense up during the cold weather.
This is a common issue in cold weather. Frostbite occurs when your tissues begin to freeze. Blood flow slows down and ice crystals begin to form inside your cells, which kills them at the same time. If left untreated and unnoticed, this can lead to deadly infections or amputations.
This is one reason why it is recommended to wear layers while working out. While you definitely do not need to bring your heavy winter jacket, you do need to make sure your layers are sufficient to both keep you warm and mobile during the entire workout.
Early signs of frostbite are numbness and discolored skin on a certain area. If you do notice any signs of frostbite, do not aggravate the area. Instead, find warmth inside and treat the area with warm water or body heat. Do not use hot water.
Another big issue to watch out for when exercising in cold weather. Extended exposure to cold weather may cause your body to lose too much heat too quickly. A drastic drop in body temperature, usually below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, slows heart rate, breathing, and brain function. Soon to follow, confusion, fatigue and organ failure will occur.
This is another critical reason why dressing appropriately in layers is a must if you need to work out in a cold gym. The multiple layers help conserve your body heat and at the same time, do not impact your performance.
While the dangers of working out in the cold do sound extreme and possibly life-threatening, you do not need to fear. By following these tips along with using your own intuition, training in a cold gym is perfectly okay and safe to do. Enjoy making your gains this winter.