Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Navy Lt. stresses importance of being proactive during winter training

Marines march during a cold weather leadership course Marines march during a cold weather leadership course at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center outside of Bridgeport, California. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Victoria Selkirk)

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Winter Safety | Heart Health Toolkit

The most important lesson for Navy Lt. Victoria Selkirk during a recent two-week leadership course at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MCMWTC) was that learning about cold-weather training in a lab or clinic is very different from experiencing cold-weather training.

“When I consider the basic nutritional aspects of someone who is working or training in cold weather, generally what I’m thinking of is two components: hydration and energy intake,” said Selkirk, a registered dietician and combined food service department head at Navy Medicine and Training Command Twentynine Palms at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms in California. “Both of those are really important to ensure your safety and your well-being, and also in making sure you have enough energy to perform in whatever capacity is needed.”

Selkirk added that while at the MCMWTC it was impressed on her how quickly an individual can become dehydrated without realizing it because of factors like thirst mechanisms not being triggered in colder temperatures. Selkirk said it is extremely important to remember to make sure you are drinking preferably warm, non-caffeinated fluid when performing prolonged, arduous activities outdoors in cold weather.

Located 21 miles northwest of Bridgeport, California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, MCMWTC provides the Marine Corps the ideal location to conduct mountain warfare operations. 

For the lieutenant and those who have cycled through MCMWTC, ‘energy intake’, including the consumption of high-calorie snacks, becomes highly important while operating in cold weather and higher altitude environments. 

“The colder climate dramatically increases the rate at which your body burns calories and, of course, you need to replace those,” Selkirk said. “The heat your body generates comes from the foods that you eat, so carbohydrates and fat can help with that.”

Despite having a solid background and understanding of how the human body reacts to various stressors, she said her experience, which included braving temperatures anywhere from 9 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit, while navigating snow-covered mountainous terrain and carrying roughly 70 pounds of gear, provided some surprises.

Skiing equipment laid out in the snow
Gear, including snowshoes, gloves, and trekking poles, used by sailors and Marines during the cold weather leadership course at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Victoria Selkirk)

“As someone who is board-certified in sports dietetics, there was a learning curve for me in understanding how much fuel my body needed,” Selkirk said. “I discovered that I consumed much more energy than I could have figured out had I sat down and tried to calculate it in a clinic prior to that experience in the field.”

While at the training center, Selkirk said that she was introduced to the concept of “continuous chow,” meaning eating small, healthy snacks constantly to maintain a consistent level of energy while working or training.

She suggested roasted almonds, dried cranberries, raisins, dried vegetables, crackers, and energy bars, all of which were included in her group’s MREs (meals ready-to-eat). She said many of them would have a snack every 30 to 45 minutes.

Selkirk reiterated the importance of taking preventative measures without the normal warning signs that your body is being depleted.

“If you’re not paying attention to it, you’re going to overlook it and you won’t even recognize it,” Selkirk said. “Whereas if you were in a hot climate, your body prompts you to eat and drink adequate amounts.”

Selkirk described the difference between what she has studied and what she experienced as a “definite paradigm shift.”

“When you’re actually out there training like that, you notice that you may have to adjust accordingly and not just rely on the calculations that you’d previously anticipated,” she said.

“Always go prepared, always bring snacks, always bring more water than you think you might need,” Selkirk said. “Sometimes there are variables thrown into the equation that are going to force you to modify accordingly on the spot.”

Specific elements that cold weather training and exercising may impact, and that people should look out for, include psychological and physical signs including dehydration, frostbite, dry skin, exhaustion, and fatigue.

“From a psychological standpoint, it’s important to maintain connectivity with the people that you are training or working with outdoors,” Selkirk said. “Don’t isolate yourself. Don’t ‘go internal.’ Psychological factors can lead to physical issues. People may not be paying as much attention to signals from their body, including eating and drinking as much as they should or the wearing down of their momentum.”

She said it is important to be aware of the development of apathy or fatigue and that the mind-body connection is paramount in those types of training environments.

Selkirk said there are some benefits to training in cold weather on a regular basis, including the development of brown fat, or brown adipose tissue, which is activated by colder temperatures and burns calories and other fat to produce heat, also known as thermogenesis.

Some of the most important points to remember, she said, include:

  • Consuming more water than you would during warm weather exercise/training
  • Consuming more calories/carbohydrates than you would during warm weather exercise/training
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol during and leading up to cold-weather exercise or training
  • Trying to consume warm food or drink hot beverages whenever possible

Although physically and mentally tough at times, Selkirk said it was an eye-opening experience.

“For me, as a clinician, it was very educational and illuminating as to what our Marines are dealing with out there in the field,” she said.

You also may be interested in...

Self-Care is as Easy as Downloading an App

Article
12/3/2021

Those in the military or medical field face unique situations that cause for overwhelming distractions. The DHA Connected Health Branch provides several tools that promote mental well-being and help develop self-care habits.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Military Mental Health Podcasts

RCP

Photo
11/10/2021
Veteran caregiver, Diane Hupko with U.S. Army veteran she cares for smile at camera

Veteran caregiver, Diane Hupko (right) honorably supports the U.S. Army veteran (left) she cares for and regularly gives of her time to volunteer and support other military caregivers and families in the Fort Drum, New York area.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness

Wounded Warrior with Family

Photo
11/4/2021
Soldier sitting in gym with wife and daughter

A participant and his family watch as wounded, ill and injured service members participate in the air rifle and air pistol competitions during the 2017 Army Warrior Games Trials at Fort Bliss, Texas (Department of Defense photo by Roger Wollenberg).

Recommended Content:

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences | Warrior Care | Total Force Fitness

Tips for Caregivers – How to Take Care of Yourself and Avoid Burnout

Article
11/4/2021
Soldier sitting in gym with wife and daughter

The Human Performance Resources by CHAMP team, part of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences’ Consortium for Health and Military Performance provides stress management strategies for caregivers of recovering friends, family members or loved ones.

Recommended Content:

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences | Total Force Fitness | Warrior Care

Are You Prepared for Flu Season? Let TRICARE Help.

Article
11/1/2021
A hospital corpsman administers an influenza vaccination to an airman as part of a seasonal shot exercise onboard Naval Air Station Sigonella.

Flu season is here once again. Are you prepared? With the COVID-19 Delta variant​ continuing to spread and our health care system overburdened, it’s important for all of us to help combat the spread of flu. And the best way to do so is to get a flu shot.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Total Force Fitness | Changes to TRICARE

Ultra-Endurance Military Athletes: What Motivates Them?

Article
10/25/2021
U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Duane Zitta on top of a mountain

For some, sports are a way to stay fit, for extreme endurance military athletes, it’s a way of life and a way to challenge themselves physically and mentally.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness

WICC Podcast

Photo
10/18/2021

Today’s female service member population is now at 17%.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Warrior Care | Total Force Fitness

No More Suck It Up and Press on -- Preventing Injury is Hard Science

Article
10/18/2021
Military personnel working on a crane

The best way to reduce work related musculoskeletal injury risk factors is through using tools like dollies, carts, lifts, and power tools.

Recommended Content:

Injury Prevention for Mission Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Total Force Fitness

Brain Resilliance

Photo
10/14/2021
Enriched environments and new experiences encourage brain plasticity. When you learn something new—such as a new instrument, language, skill, or sport—new neuropathways are created in your brain.

Soldiers training for operations.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Total Force Fitness | In the Spotlight

Tips for How to ‘Train Right’ and Avoid Injuries During Sports and PT

Article
10/13/2021
Military personnel in physical threapy

Physical training, recreational activities, and sports are key to service members’ health but musculoskeletal injuries due to sudden incidents and repeated stress or overuse are the biggest health problem in the U.S. military.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Injury Prevention

Fort Knox dietician reveals personal staples for healthy family meals, picky eaters

Article Around MHS
10/8/2021
Vegetables displayed at a grocery store.

Making sure everyone in the family is eating healthy can sometimes be overwhelming and oftentimes, families aren’t sure where to start.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness

Health Promotion duo optimizes health on Incirlik Air Base

Article Around MHS
9/30/2021
Air Force Capt. Sydney Sloan, 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion element chief (right), and Air Force Senior Airman Gloriann Manapsal, 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion technician (left), promote making healthy choices at the Sultan’s Inn Dining Facility on Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

The 39th Operation Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion team provides and integrates evidence-based programs to optimize the health and readiness, even during these unprecedented times.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Total Force Fitness | Coronavirus

Finding time for fitness during the work week just got easier

Article Around MHS
9/29/2021
A person works out the gym.

The new Army Civilian Fitness and Health Promotion Program now encourages employees to focus on fitness while at work.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Total Force Fitness

Regular physical activity is important for health and performance

Article Around MHS
9/29/2021
A Coast Guardsman works out at Coast Guard Air Station Savannah.

Those who get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week have a much lower risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease—the top killers of Americans every year.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness

What is a "healthy" weight-loss eating plan, anyway?

Article Around MHS
9/28/2021
A female soldier poses with an apple in her hand.

Weight loss sounds simple: take less “energy in” (fuel from food and drinks, measured in calories) and use more “energy out” (calories burned through daily physical activity and exercise).

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 9

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.