November is upon us and the weather is starting to change. Colder temperatures, heavy winds, rain and snow are all uncontrollable variables that can have a drastic impact on performance and competition. It is the responsibility of the coaching staff to have strategies set in place to minimize the negative effects associated with more harsh weather conditions. A major concern during the fall and winter months is keeping the athletes sufficiently warm, whether they are on the sidelines or between plays or drills during competition or practice.
With temperatures dropping, the timing of warm-ups for practice or competition becomes increasingly important. Recently, Spitz and colleagues (2013) studied the effects of elapsed time following warm-up on performance and whether temperature had an additional influence on this effect. After warm-up, athletes waited either 5 minutes or 30 minutes in a warm (24 degrees Celsius) or cold (5 degrees Celsius) environment before time trials. The results showed that 30 minutes of inactivity in the cold conditions following warm-up prior to time trial resulted in decreased performance (a difference of approximately 20 seconds) in the athletes. This clearly demonstrates the importance of body temperature on exercise performance in athletes.
Coaches can reduce the effects that cold weather has on their athlete’s performance in several ways. First, managing time appropriately and ensuring that pre-competition warm-up does not start too early in effort to minimize the wait before the match starts goes a long way. Second, enforcing appropriate practice and competition attire can keep the athletes warm. It’s not uncommon for athletes to want to wear little or no under garments in cold weather as a sign of toughness, but this may be coming at the expense of reduced performance. Another option is to encourage the athletes to stay mobile during waiting periods rather than sitting or standing still to keep warm. Lastly, having weather proof jackets on the sidelines available for the athletes can help keep them warm between plays. Keeping your athletes warm will keep them performing at their best.
Spitz, M. G., Kenefick, R. W., & Mitchell, J. B. (2013). The effects of elapsed time after warm-up on subsequent exercise performance in a cold environment. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Ahead of print.