We’ve all been there.
Sitting in the car with the heat at full blast, dreading that first step out into the frigid air.
You spend 10 minutes psyching yourself up until, finally, you grit your teeth and head out for the pitch.
It’s rugby in the winter - a true test of mental fortitude.
If, during that 10-minute mental battle, you’ve ever found yourself wondering, “How do rugby players stay warm when temperatures are freezing, it’s probably raining, and you’re bound to be tackling people into the frost?” Well, we’ve got some answers for you. Will they make warm weather come sooner? No, but they will make your life a bit easier.
Read on for our 5 tips for surviving winter rugby training (hint: it’s more than just wearing your favourite women’s rugby hoodies, although that doesn’t hurt)
#1 - Extend Your Warm-up
Gone are the days of “a few laps around the pitch” to get ready. We now know the importance of actually preparing the body for rugby-specific movements such as sprinting, mobility through contact, change of direction, and more.
At the club level, that responsibility tends to lie with the players, as many teams won’t have an S&C handy at training. While it can be tempting to just get started, don’t short-change your warm-up… especially during winter training. It’s called a warm-up for a reason, after all.
Here’s a basic template to get a good rugby warm-up in:
Raise your heart rate - this is where the “warm” part comes from. Get that blood pumping and elevate your breathing through dynamic movement. This could be anything from multi-directional running to simple hands-on-ball or a 5-10 minute touch game at 60%. If you want to survive winter training, spend extra time here. You and your teammates should be sweating… but not exhausted since you’re just getting warm.
Activate your muscles - core work, bear crawls, band walks - you name it. These types of exercises prime the muscles that keep you prepared to run or take impact. This step is critical for longevity and injury prevention, so don’t skip it.
Get mobile - This is where your typical dynamic stretching comes in. Hit some deep lunges, leg swings, calf pumps, and t-spine/shoulder mobility so your body is prepared for all the challenges training throws at you.
Potentiate - Right before you’re ready to hit the field, you want to really flick the power on. Since you didn’t skip any of the above steps (right?), you should be warm enough to sprint, jump, and even wrestle by now. Short bursts of 90-100% explosive movement are key to replicating the demands of rugby and making sure you get the most out of your winter training.
#2 - Keep Your Blood Flow Up
Now that you’ve gotten warm, stay warm!
As long as you’re running around on the field, especially with layers of outerwear, that shouldn’t be too difficult.
But we all know some coaches love the sound of their own voice, and you might get stuck in a huddle for a little too long. (Coaches, if you’re reading this, this is your cue to keep your athletes moving as much as possible when the temperatures drop)
If you do find yourself standing around, however, stay warm with some basic movements like squats, high knees, lunges, and press-ups. It might feel strange at first, but you’ll be ready to go immediately when you’re called back on.
And chuck that women’s rugby hoodie of yours back on if you’re on the sideline for a while. Keep yourself warm and that blood flow up, and you’ll greatly decrease your risk of a muscle sprain or tear.
#3 - Stay Hydrated
It’s easy to remember to drink water when the summer sun is beating down on you. But when it’s cold out? Not so much.
That’s why it’s crucial to build in regular water breaks (even if it’s just enough time for a few sips) into your training schedule.
Not only does water help regulate body temperature (AKA keep you warm), but it also transports the nutrients you need for energy and fights fatigue.
According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, athletes should drink 500-600ml of water 3 hours before exercise, with an additional 200-300m every 20 minutes or so. For particularly hard sessions, combine that with electrolytes to increase retention, reduce cramping, and maintain overall fluid balance. But please, remember to hydrate, my friends.
#4 - Dress For Success With Your Outerwear
Our favourite part of winter training? Layers!
When it comes to winter women’s rugby, sweatshirts are a must. Not only do they allow you to rock up to training in style, but they’re a simple temperature regulation hack that doesn’t exist in the summer. You can always put more clothes on… but you can only take so many off.
At Ruggette, we’ve got a broad selection of women's rugby hoodies and women’s rugby sweatshirts to keep you looking sharp and cozy on your way to training (and during that extended warm-up you’re definitely going to do!). For contact sessions, a crewneck is the way to go as there’s no risk of someone tackling you by the hood. But if you ask us, nothing beats a great hoodie in the winter to keep warm.
#5 - Don’t Neglect Your Conditioning
Regardless of how many layers of women’s rugby sweatshirts you wear, running in the cold is awful. That's why many people (us included) would rather focus on the weights for a few months.
Not only does winter conditioning make you feel like any exposed skin will freeze off, but the lung burn from deep, icy cold breaths is the stuff of nightmares. If you’re going to be playing in this weather, however, you need to train in it.
That doesn’t mean you can’t invest in solid outerwear to mitigate the cold, but you don't want the first time you get hit with that lung burn to be in a game.
Now, I’m sure some of you (Canadians) are thinking - “I physically cannot run outside during the winter because not only is the ground covered in ice and snow, but the cold could literally kill me.”
We get it, trust us. But don’t think that means you get a free pass on conditioning until the weather warms up, though.
Find an indoor field, run on a treadmill, or hit the off-feet conditioning hard to keep your resilience up. Injuries happen most often when we’re fatigued, so stay fit and keep your risk low. Plus, the fitter you are, the better you play!
Training for women’s rugby in the winter can be tough, but you’re tougher.
We built our women’s rugby sweatshirts, hoodies, and other outerwear to withstand the demands of the pitch and look good off it. Add in a solid warm-up, proper hydration, and regular conditioning… and you’ll be more than equipped to show a little cold weather who’s boss.