Winter is here, folks.
‘Tis the season for ice cold barbells, chapped lips, and shrinkage…
of capillaries… because it’s so cold…
It’s not particularly easy to go out and train in the frigid cold when you’re so close to the warm comforts of your own home.
But not training isn’t the way we do things around here, and fortunately for us, there are ways to limit the cold’s impact.
Now I’m not saying these tips will keep the White Walkers away, but here are 5 ways you can stay warm in your garage gym this winter.
#1. Layer Up
Seems fairly obvious, right?
Well one does not simply layer up with any material and expect optimal results. You need to have a layer plan.
Let me explain.
There are essentially four layers you need to be concerned with when it comes to training in the cold. This is especially true with your upper body. With your lower body, you’re not as sensitive and there aren’t internal organs to keep warm as is the case above the waist.
Layer #1 – Base Layer
The base layer is very important because its main purpose is to keep moisture off the skin. It’s really important to pick a material that will wick away sweat, otherwise you will feel even colder. There are two different types of fabric that are recommended:
These fabrics will be softer and lighter than other fabrics and they will also be faster drying as well. Look for blends such as polypropylene, nylon, spandex, or rayon. Any fabric that includes spandex will offer a more comfortable stretch also, which is obviously a good thing when training. Examples include the Under Armour ColdGear line and the Virus Performance Stay Warm Series. I personally own the Virus Stay Warm compression pants and I can attest to their quality and comfort.
Merino wool is different from traditional wool in that it’s softer and not as itchy. This fabric provides a bit more warmth than the synthetic fabrics, but it’s not as fast drying. Also of note is that wool is naturally antibacterial, which means you can wear these on consecutive days with minimal odor accumulation. Merino wool is typically more expensive than synthetic, so keep that in mind if you’re searching. An example of a quality Merino wool product would be Smartwool on Amazon.
it is not recommended that you wear a cotton base layer because it does a very poor job of wicking away sweat. In fact it retains perspiration remarkably well. Silk is another fabric that can be used as a base layer, but it’s not recommended due to the fact it is better suited for more stationary activities. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Layer #2 – Insulation Layer
The insulation layer works by trapping air close to your body, thereby retaining heat and helping you feel warmer.
For the insulation layer, think about wearing light sweaters and long-sleeve shirts made either with synthetic blends, natural fibers, or fleece.
Merino wool sweaters work very well, as do fleece pullovers. Fleece pants are especially nice over a pair of compression pants because they have excellent thermal qualities and they move freely and easily.
Layer #3 – Outer Layer
If you’re training under cover in your garage, a simple breathable sweatshirt will work perfectly. I personally like a fleece or polyester blend sweatshirt, as they are relatively light, they allow moisture to escape, and they keep a nice warm barrier between the insulation layer.
Something like the Under Armour Storm Hoodie is perfect.
Odds are you’re going to start stripping off this layer as you get warmed up, especially if you’re carrying out some of the other suggestions in this post.
If you’re training outdoors in the elements, you should consider a shell jacket to protect against snow, rain, wind, etc…
Layer 4: Extremities
Keeping your hands, feet, and head warm is a really important step in this layering process. Buy some thick wool socks and a beanie to wear at all times. I also recommend buying some gloves and wearing them in between sets at the bare minimum.
As long as you’re not performing lifts where grip is a limiting factor (deadlifts, rows, etc…), I would also suggest you think about wearing a thin glove such as these Mechanix gloves while training.
#2. Insulate your Garage Door
Let’s face it.
Garages aren’t well insulated, which leads to significant heat loss.
If you’re actively heating your garage, you’re probably not realizing the full benefit because of this insulation issue.
You see, heat wants to travel very quickly from where it’s hot to where it’s cold. The rate of that transfer is measured through R-value, which you will note on insulation materials. So for example, a product with a rating of R-25 will retain heat longer than a product rated R-5.
One quick and easy way to provide a more conducive garage environment is to insulate your garage door.
The best way to accomplish this is by purchasing an insulation kit. While the R-values are still relatively low at around 5-8, they can actually make a difference in your garage’s internal temperature. This is especially true if your ceiling and/or walls have some kind of insulation already.
#3. Warm Up your Barbell
Picking up a frozen piece of steel is not exactly the most comfortable thing.
In fact, it’s arguably the most daunting thing about training in a cold garage gym.
Luckily for us, there are a few steps we can take to reduce the bite.
Tip 1: Blow Dry your Bar
Yes, you read that right.
Grab your friendly hair dryer and get to work. The benefit of using a hair dryer is it provides a very focused heat. This means all the bar needs is a couple minutes before it’s ready to be handled comfortably. After a couple sets the bar is likely to stay pretty warm thanks to your hands acting as a natural heater.
Tip 2: Bring your Bar Inside
If you know what barbell you’ll be using, you can bring it indoors ahead of time to allow it to regulate to the warmer temperature.
Your wife may not appreciate it, but your hands surely will.
Tip 3: Wear Gloves
I alluded to this in the layering section, but wearing a pair of heavy duty gloves between sets will do wonders in reducing the coldness from the bar.
Further, you can wear those Mechanix gloves or something similar on certain lifts to protect your frigid hands. I would recommend it strongly.
Nobody is going to judge you… it’s your garage gym after all!
Tip 4: Use Chalk
You should be using chalk regardless, but when it’s cold out, chalk can actually help some by creating just another layer of insulation between your flesh and the steel.
So channel your inner Lebron and make it rain.
#4. Buy a Heater
Remember when I mentioned garages aren’t typically insulated well?
When it comes to buying a heater, I wouldn’t spend a lot of money on the high end infrared heaters, forced air heaters, etc… unless you have a properly insulated garage. Otherwise you’ll just waste energy, as the heat is lost through the walls, doors, etc…
I personally have an inexpensive space heater that I spent around $50 on from Amazon. It works fine. I prop it up right next to my platform and, when combined with the other tips in this post, it keeps me nice and toasty throughout my session.
Now, if you have a fully insulated garage and, especially if you live in a particularly harsh winter climate, more advanced heating systems would be ideal.
Mobile forced air heaters like this Dyna Glo Portable Heater that run off propane can be purchased relatively inexpensively at around $100. You can also purchase wall or ceiling-mounted versions that connect directly to your home’s gas line (if you have one), but these will be much more expensive.
Infrared radiant heaters are another option. These differ from forced air heaters in that they don’t circulate heat. Rather, they heat whatever object happens to be in front of them. You’ve likely seen these at restaurants when sitting on a patio. They can get HOT… like, uncomfortably hot. While those commercial versions aren’t safe to use at home, there are some tube heaters that are appropriate from home/garage use.
With anything requiring gas, propane, etc… proper ventilation is a necessity. Crack a window or your garage door any time you heat your space this way.
Lastly, you can purchase wall-mounted ductless heat pump air handlers such as this Mitsubishi model that can also be used to cool your space when it’s hot outside. These will definitely be on the expensive side, but they’re a nice option nonetheless… if you have your garage insulated of course.
For anything requiring mounting, gas lines, and/or electrical configurations, I would strongly suggest you consult a certified HVAC expert.
I’m certainly not.
And that’s probably why I continue to (successfully) use a space heater.
#5. Warm Up, Literally
When it’s cold outside, a proper warm-up is key to avoiding injury and preparing the body for the workload you’re about to impress upon it.
I’m a big fan of using the barbell to actually warm-up prior to getting into working sets, but when it’s super cold, I suggest before getting under the bar that you spend some time getting the blood flowing.
If you have access to cardio/endurance equipment, jump on it and get to work. Otherwise, you can use a cheap jump rope, do some jumping jacks, etc… Start slowly and allow the body to adjust before ramping it up.
But ramp it up you must.
Once you get the heart rate up and you can feel your internal temperature rising, feel free to start your empty barbell work.
Once you feel adequately warmed-up, get into those workings sets.
You’ll be taking off that outer layer in short order.
Stay Warm in your Garage Gym
With these tips you need not fret about training in your garage gym this winter, my friends.
White Walkers are another story though.
I can’t help you there.
Before you go, what are your favorite ways to stay warm in your garage gym?
The bar is loaded,