Mark Homer |

The start-line shivers

How does exercising in the cold affect our ability to train? Dr Mark Homer reviews the research

A bit of cold does not normally phase the rowing community. In fact, I would wager that it is only water’s inability to remain rowable below zero degrees centigrade that stops more of you braving even colder conditions in the winter months. But what are the physiological effects of rowing in Arctic-like surroundings and how do they differ from the cosiness of an indoor ergo? This article will explain how exercise in the cold affects the body and the potential implications for training and racing in such conditions.

Like any engine that produces power, the human body generates substantial heat as a by-product when breaking down food and converting it to chemical energy for rowing. To combat this rise, and retain an optimal internal environment, we have several mechanisms for heat loss. These come in particularly useful to avoid overheating in hot conditions, but are also important when trying to preserve heat. Convection (transferring heat by the motion of gas or liquid), conduction (transferring heat by touching solid material), radiation (transferring heat through infrared rays) and the main method – evaporation (sweating), where fluid is produced by sweat glands to deliver heat to the atmosphere all affect our internal temperature.

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