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

Navy Lt. stresses importance of being proactive during winter training

Image of 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

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...

How Performance Nutrition Can Help You Maintain Readiness

Article
7/29/2022
A person serving himself a salad

Performance nutrition is a major key to force readiness.

Recommended Content:

Performance Nutrition: Fuel Your Body and Mind | Total Force Fitness | Nutritional Fitness

August Performance Triad Month

Article Around MHS
7/21/2022
Color graphic depicting aspects of wellness.

As part of its August “P3 for All” campaign, the U.S. Army Public Health Center is encouraging all Army leaders, soldiers, family members and soldiers for life to embrace the synergy of sleep, activity and nutrition, the core components of the Performance Triad, along with the important elements of mental readiness and spiritual readiness.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Sleep

Tactical Diaper Bags and Other Fathers' Day Tips from a Marine Officer

Article
6/16/2022
Tactical Diaper Bags and Other Fathers' Day Tips from a Marine Officer

“When we deploy, our lives become simpler, while theirs become more complex: In addition to missing their husband and father, they are missing someone who should be helping to shoulder the burden that military life places on kids.”

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness

Tactical Diaper Bags and Other Fathers' Day Tips from a Marine Officer

Photo
6/16/2022
Tactical Diaper Bags and Other Fathers' Day Tips from a Marine Officer

An experienced military dad offers advice to new service members beginning their parenting journey.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness

Could a Therapy Dog Help with Your Dental Anxiety?

Article
6/2/2022
Air Force Brig. Gen. Goldie, a facility therapy dog at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, helps reduce anxiety in a patient with complex dental conditions that require multiple appointments. The use of therapy dogs is part of an ongoing study with these patients.

A first-of-its-kind study at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is researching whether using facility therapy dogs in dentists’ offices could reduce patient anxiety and improve outcomes for military dental treatment programs.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Total Force Fitness

Tips for Military Parents Planning PCS Moves with Children

Article
6/2/2022
Moving can be hard on military families, especially on children. Moving to a new home, going to a new school, finding new friends – it can be unsettling for kids of any age. Yet there are things that service members can do to prepare for a permanent change of station move that can make for a smoother transition for the children.

Moving can be hard on military families, especially on children. Moving to a new home, going to a new school, finding new friends – it can be unsettling for kids of any age. Yet, there are things that service members can do to prepare for a permanent change of station move that can make for a smoother transition for the children.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Total Force Fitness

PTSD Awareness Month - PTSD Awareness

Infographic
6/1/2022
PTSD Awareness Month - PTSD Awareness

Unfortunately, experiencing trauma is not uncommon. If you’ve experienced trauma and notice symptoms of #PTSD, don’t hesitate to ask your primary care provider about possible treatment. #TreatmentWorks #PTSDAwarenessMonth www.health.mil/ptsd

Recommended Content:

June | Total Force Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD Awareness Month - Treatment Works

Infographic
6/1/2022
PTSD Awareness Month - Treatment Works

Experiencing #PTSD can make one feel hopeless. Fortunately, there are strategies and treatments that WORK to relieve PTSD symptoms. Don’t wait, seek help today. #PTSDAwarenessMonth www.health.mil/ptsd

Recommended Content:

June | Total Force Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Air Force Surgeon General eyes modernizing capabilities for joint commanders (Part 2)

Article Around MHS
5/27/2022
Military medical personnel at Patrick AFB

Since assuming his role of Air Force Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Robert Miller has worked to advance the Air Force Medical Service’s capabilities, ensuring it is ready for an evolving joint fight.

Recommended Content:

Medical Logistics | Defense Medical Readiness Training Institute | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Total Force Fitness

Walter Reed Service Dogs

Photo
5/27/2022
Walter Reed Service Dogs

Luke, a German Shepherd facility dog at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, stays with wounded warrior Heath Calhoun at the Military Advanced Treatment Center facility while Calhoun undergoes rehab therapy. Luke is officially a Navy Hospital Corpsman Third Class.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness

Holiday Food Safety Tip: Cook Food Thoroughly

Infographic
5/25/2022
Holiday Food Safety Tip: Cook Food Thoroughly

Use a thermometer to ensure your food is cooked to the right minimum internal temperature.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Nutritional Fitness

Holiday Food Safety Tip: Keep Cold Food Cold

Infographic
5/25/2022
Holiday Food Safety Tip: Keep Cold Food Cold

Don't let your cold dishes sit out on a counter for more than 2 hours. Keep it chilled at 40 degrees or less.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Nutritional Fitness

Holiday Food Safety Tip: Wash Your Hands

Infographic
5/25/2022
Holiday Food Safety Tip: Wash Your Hands

Washing your hands often is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness

How Health Care Providers Can Mitigate Burnout

Article
5/25/2022
U.S. Army Soldiers load a simulated patient on to a New Jersey National Guard UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter during a combat lifesaver course run by the Medical Simulation Training Center on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, April 14, 2022.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)

“No one is immune to burnout. Healthcare providers are very good at rescuing others. We train for it and practice it daily. Unfortunately, we often do so at the expense of our own health and wellness.”

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Health Readiness & Combat Support

Ask the Doc: Yes, I Binge Drink. But am I an Alcoholic?

Article
5/25/2022
Ian Bell, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron True North social worker, tries on vision impairment goggles at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Dec. 20, 2021. The vision impairment goggles represented a range of different blood alcohol concentrations, from less than 0.06 BAC, which simulates how reaction time and abilities are affected after just one drink, to 0.25, a very high level of impairment caused by binge drinking.

Dear Doc: I kick back on the weekends and down a six-pack or two at a time. I know this is called binge drinking, but I don’t think I’m an alcoholic. Should I be worried?

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Ask The Doc
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 8
Refine your search
Last Updated: April 28, 2021

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.