How to

12 May 2016

Cold Weather Training

Cold Weather Exposure
There is such a thing as exposure training. It is used in therapy to desensitise a person to a phobia or, in a totally different setting, to train the body to react differently to the cold.

Michael Allen Smith of Seattle, WA was the one-man show behind this method of fitness. Inspired by fitness guru Arthur De Vany, Smith used his blog CriticalMAS to document his interests, constantly varied and diverging, including cold exposure training. Defunct as of December 2015, Smith’s blog posts are still accessible and offer some insight into his ideology.

Cold exposure training comes with a few choice benefits:
-        Cold weather automatically creates stress on the body which, when withstood, can minimize the chance of a heart attack or stroke. In theory, a body used to dealing with regularly-induced stress can handle much more stress in the future.

-        Weight loss as a result of continued cold exposure. The body works harder to stay warm in colder environments, burning calories in the process; and with the activation of brown fats can give increased results.

-        By forcing the body to acclimatise to the cold without bundling up, a person can be comfortable in lower temperatures. It’s a good day when you can wear shorts; why not make everyday a good one?

In understanding cold weather and weight loss, we must first discuss brown fat. Brown adipose tissue (BAT) gets its namesake from clusters of concentrated, dark-coloured mitochondria within. Unlike white fat, which hangs about storing excess energy that we poke and prod at miserably, brown fat burns through energy/sugar to release heat in order to regulate body temperature. Newborns have high levels of brown fat in order to protect their unadjusted bodies from life outside the womb. After a time, when the body is more equipped to adjust, brown fat turns into white fat … or so we thought.

According to Dr. Sven Enerbäck of the University of Göteborg, brown fat persists into adulthood and is found at the front and back of the neck. If one were to activate these brown fats through cold exposure, then, logically, the brown fats would activate to increase the burn of glucose. Dr. Francesco Celi, a clinician at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, says, “On the basis of animal models, researchers calculate that 50 g of brown fat … could burn about 20% of an average person’s daily caloric intake.”
 One might muse, it’s not so easy as just standing out in the wind. Isn’t it, though? Acclimatisation is all about adjusting, and through continued exposure comes adaptation. Don’t go stand in the wind for the sake of exposure though. That’s just silly. Instead, take a leaf out of Smith’s journal by turning the tap way down for a couple minutes at the end of your shower and dousing your appendages. In his post “My Cold Challenge to You,” he enlightens readers about the benefits of cold exposure and gives some handy tips to surviving and thriving through the training.

Until recently, humans didn’t have the luxury of temperature-controlled environments where the stress and discomfort of cold were left at the door. Braving the elements was simply the reality of life, and, with that, comes a higher caloric demand.  With cold exposure, you too can reap the benefits from a few moments in a chilly shower. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).