I moved to Texas from Illinois in January 2016 and have been involved in triathlon since 2013. As I grew up in the sport in a much colder state, I’ve had somewhat of a forced experience in training in all weathers. in Illinois it’s not uncommon for the temperatures in winter to dip below zero degrees, however, if we want to do well in race season, we need to prepare in the offseason.
First a word of caution - if you feel at all unsafe in the conditions, please delay the training until weather improves. There is no use in beating ourselves up by training in dangerous conditions. Running or biking in unsafe conditions will likely result in injuries, which will hinder training more than taking it inside or skipping a day.
Breaking it down by sport:
The easy one is swim. Open water is not generally available to us in winter, so I highly encourage you to check out an indoor pool or take a session in Playtri’s endless pool as often as you so desire. Once the conditions start to warm up again, a wetsuit is worthwhile from March onwards to get an early start on open water, watch the Playtri website for open water practices starting again.
Running outdoors in winter is actually (in my opinion) much more pleasant than running in hot summer. The key here in Texas is layers - I’ve found that I can often start a run in the 40s but it be high 60s by the time we finish. Typically you want to aim for what you would be comfortable in about 10 degrees warmer than the actual temperature, and even warmer conditions if the intention is a higher intensity run. Runner’s World has put together a handy “what to wear” app on their website: https://www.runnersworld.com/what-to-wear which I have bookmarked and use whenever I’m not sure what will be good for the conditions, just fill in your gender, weather conditions and when you are running and it’ll spit out a suggestion to fit the conditions. I suggest filling in the conditions in the expected middle of your run time.
A few things it is good to have in your wardrobe for winter running:
Base layer - used for colder temperatures underneath technical fabrics to assist with wicking moisture away and keeping heat in.
Long sleeved technical shirt - I find the free ones at beginning of season/end of season races to be very adequate and after a few years in the sport have a selection to pick from.
Short sleeved shirts for when it’s not quite so cold or warmup is expected
Warmup jacket or fleece - I’m a fan of fleece personally for this and my go to fleece is zip up so i can unzip as I get warmer
Wind breaker layer either can be worn directly over the tech shirt over the fleece/jacket depending on the temperature - to keep the wind from biting through the clothing.
Trail running shoes - these tend to be higher grip and more waterproof than regular running shoes - I use mine on the road during frosty, snowy or wet conditions.
Lightweight running tights -should be the most you need in Texas, although if you intend to travel to colder climates during winter a thermal pair could also be added.
During darker evenings or early morning it is a good idea to invest in some visibility equipment - I have a flashing headlamp and a handheld flashlight that I do use during dark runs along with reflective clothing choices.
As a general rule, it is good to dress for conditions 20 degrees cooler than you would for run. This is due to the cooling effect of the wind on the ride. That said I’ve found that providing I can keep my fingers, toes, and torso dry and warm, I will generally be fine in a pair of cycle shorts down to about 40 degrees. You may find me on the group rides with a coat, gloves and a hat but still wearing cycling shorts, I usually use thermal socks in winter and am a fan of breath thermo (Mizuno) which has a fiber that gets warmer as it absorbs sweat from your body.
I recommend utilizing as much daylight as possible with the bike - car drivers have a difficult time seeing us and judging speed and distance in the dark even if we are using lights. If you can schedule your ride during the weekend (we have some excellent group ride opportunities) or have a flexible schedule and can get a ride in during the daylight hours it is a much better option.
If this is not possible consider using an indoor trainer or joining an indoor group trainer session (now available at Playtri).
Stay visible at all times -use multiple lights and reflective clothing on both the bike and run workouts. Wear bright colors where possible, especially in the dark or dull conditions.
Watch out for icy conditions - if the temperature is in the low 30s or below you may find ice, which can be a surprise at times. On bike keep a straight line as possible with no sudden movements. On run shorten your stride and focus on landing mid foot to increase traction.