Guide for Cold Weather Parkour Training
As the weather gets colder, many traceurs move their training indoors. Before parkour gyms cold winters often brought people inside to work on strength training to prepare for the spring. A select few would continue training outside—to test their mental limits and to be prepared for any situation. Through this process we learned how to train outdoors effectively over the winter—however, it does take some extra planning and gear to keep sessions safe and enjoyable through more extreme weather.
What Should I Wear?
While you may decide to forego appropriate gear, it's important to understand what type of equipment is needed for winter training. Everything from your head to your feet should be covered in some kind of moisture-wicking fabric (e.g., running tights with stretchy, synthetic fiber). If you wear too much cotton while training, your clothing can absorb sweat and water from the snow/ice and will become extremely cold. This can lead to hypothermia and can make outdoor training unsustainable for longer periods of time.
There are 3 critical layers that will keep you warm while training in the frosty streets of NYC (or braving a snowy mountain pass):
1. Base Layer:
Upper Body: Merino wool sweater/long sleeve shirt
Merino wool wicks moisture away and tends to stay the warmest. Wool will also keep you warm even when it gets wet and has the added benefit of being antimicrobial. Jesse has three thermals that he rotates between sessions during the winter (in case one of them gets soaked).
Lower Body: Running tights/long underwear
Running tights are thin enough to stay cool in the fall, but tight enough to retain warmth in the winter. The stretchy material won’t restrict mobility while the moisture wicking and compression keeps you dry and warm.
2. Insulating Layer:
Upper Body: Tech fleece or sweater (tech fiber)
An insulating fleece or sweater can be essential in harsh weather training, especially when traveling between spots since you aren’t moving to keep warm. This is something you can easily remove if you start overheating to avoid sweating too much once you start training again.
Lower Body: Sweatpants or tech pants (e.g., track pants)
Some athletes wear running tights with a pair of shorts once it starts getting chilly, but this won’t cut it for sub-zero sessions where the breeze can cut through the thin fabric like fishnets. Add an extra layer of insulation with a pair of heavy sweatpants or pants with a stretchy, technical fiber like track or climbing pants. You may also want to wear long underwear to help retain more heat.
Torso: Outdoor “shell” jacket
This is what protects you from the elements—wind and water especially—it should be wind- and water-resistant. We recommend opting for a waterproof “shell” jacket with a windbreaker and a light lining to keep you warm. When you're training—except in extremely cold temperatures—heavy winter coats can be unnecessarily warm and bulky. Your core can generate more than enough warmth with just a baselayer and shell in everything but the most extreme weather conditions.
These extra items will help you regulate heat. Jesse recommends keeping a hat, mittens, and a spare pair of socks in your bag through the winter. If you don’t end up needing them you may be out training with someone who might!
You can wear neck gaiters, face masks, or hats to keep your head warm. Just remember that it takes a lot of work for our body to get heat to our extremities, so wearing gear that keeps that heat in is important. Jesse recommends using more than you think you’ll need since small items like these are easy to take off and store.
Winter boots are often bulky and can change the way your feet and ankles move. Jesse recommends wearing your regular parkour shoes but investing in a pair of heavy wool socks. These will keep your toes and feet warm even if they get wet (which you should do your best to avoid).
Gloves or mittens with grip panels (e.g., snowboarding gloves)
You may prefer the feel of cold metal and concrete than a bulky glove, but it’s very easy for fingers to get frostbite once the temperatures start to drop.- For the worst days Jesse wears mittens once his hands get cold. He prefers snowboarding mittens that have a good grip panel so he can still grab bars. When choosing a pair of gloves or mittens, make sure you’re still able to crawl, swing, vault, and climb without having to worry about them slipping all over the place. Also, keep in mind that when gloves get to a certain bulk/heaviness, the fingers are largely superficial and won’t really help improve things like grip or dexterity. Mittens, on the other hand, allow your fingers to keep each other cozy company and retain more heat.
A Personal Note:
One of my favorite things about training in the winter is that it can seem like the whole city belongs to you—parks and favorite spots are nearly deserted, and we have a freedom to train and explore in peace. One of the other fantastic things about training in the winter is collectively facing a discomfort—it is the perfect place and way to cultivate a resilient spirit—if you can show up, have fun, and make progress despite the circumstances or conditions, you have prepared yourself to better handle the less than ideal whenever it shows up.
-Jesse Danger, Founder of The Movement Creative