Skip to main content

Military Health System

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 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...

March 2021 Toolkit

Publication
2/22/2021

March is nationally recognized as Brain Injury Awareness Month, with the goal of increasing traumatic brain injury (TBI) awareness and improve health care providers’ ability to identify, care for, and treat all those who are affected by TBI. A TBI is a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain. According to the Defense Health Agency Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence, 430,720 service members have been diagnosed with a first-time TBI since 2000. The toolkit also contains information on patient Safety Awareness Week, National Nutrition Month and many other graphics and messages you can use for holidays and observances during March.

Recommended Content:

Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Total Force Fitness | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

Ask the Doc: Trying to Be Heart Smart

Article
2/15/2021
Snow covers the trees around J. Edward Roush Lake, Huntington, Ind.

Dear Doc: I can’t speak for everyone, but I know where I live, we’ve still got a month or so of extreme cold weather left. Following the advice from your last column, I’m pushing through with my outdoor workouts. While I am staying warm, I’ve noticed that I get tired quicker than I would when it’s warm outside. I’ve also heard that your heart must work harder when you’re working out outside during the winter. How can I make sure I’m not risking my heart health to keep up my routine? –-Trying to be Heart Smart

Recommended Content:

Winter Safety | Heart Health | Ask The Doc

Milley Highlights Importance of Heart Health during visit to WRNMMC

Article
2/12/2021
Two military personnel, wearing masks, standing with woman in red dress, also wearing a  mask

Americans recognize the first Friday in February as National Wear Red Day.

Recommended Content:

Heart Health Toolkit | Heart Health Toolkit | Heart Health

Fort Belvoir nursing chiefs in unique position as African Americans

Article
2/11/2021
Two military personnel, wearing masks, in a meeting

Fort Belvoir team shares decades of experience in military medicine.

Recommended Content:

Paving the Way for African Americans in Military Medicine: A Look Across Time | Heart Health Toolkit | Heart Health Toolkit | Nursing in the Military Health System

A ‘holistic framework’ for Total Force Fitness through 2021

Article
2/8/2021
Three military personnel, dress in gym gear, exercising with medicine balls.

Total Force Fitness is being re-introduced in 2021 by all branches of the military, to include an emphasis on holistic training that goes far beyond physical fitness.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness

Sleep and TBI

Video
2/8/2021
Sleep and TBI

Sleep disturbances are common for service members and veterans following a mild TBI, also known as concussion.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | TBI Educators | Patient and Family Resources | TBI Provider Resources | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Total Force Fitness

Blood donations remain vital for Service Member care

Article
2/3/2021
Man walking with assistance at a PT clinic

Putting a human face on the act of giving blood could help drive blood donations. And first-tme donors often become sustaining donors.

Recommended Content:

Heart Health Toolkit | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Speak Out: DHA observes Black History Month

Article
2/3/2021
Old-time image of soldier, wearing a helmet, holding a rifle, and planes flying overhead, with the words "Black History Month" over the image

The Defense Health Agency celebrated Black History Month by honoring those who fought injustice, and toiled to make our nation a better place for all.

Recommended Content:

Paving the Way for African Americans in Military Medicine: A Look Across Time | Heart Health Toolkit

USU launches into 2021 with Team Wellness Challenge

Article
2/2/2021
Four women, wearing masks, holding onto a simulated brain

Every New Year brings resolutions to change or improve our health, fitness, attitudes, or habits.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Heart Health Toolkit | Heart Health Toolkit

COVID-19 presents challenges to heart health, physical fitness

Article
2/1/2021
Four military personnel, wearing masks, running on a track

Because of COVID-19 shutdowns, the overall health of both military personnel and beneficiaries has taken a hit over the last year.

Recommended Content:

Heart Health Toolkit | Heart Health Toolkit | Heart Health Toolkit | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Heart Health

TFF: A holistic approach to health and performance

Article
1/29/2021
Silhouette of man climbing a hill

Total Force Fitness encourages Service Members to look beyond traditional fitness approaches to boost their performance.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness

Religious support team deploys to help frontline healthcare workers

Article
1/28/2021
Two military personnel, wearing masks, standing against a wall

Military chaplains and religious affairs specialist deploy to support our military medical providers responding working on the frontlines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Recommended Content:

Spiritual Fitness | Total Force Fitness | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Social fitness can impact overall health and readiness

Article
1/28/2021
Five Cyclists riding on the road

Social fitness, one of the total Force Fitness framework’s eight domains, is an important element to holistic health.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Social Fitness

Mentoring advice from a Navy senior chief

Article
1/27/2021
Two military personnel, wearing masks, sitting at a desk talking

A Navy senior chief petty officer shares his secrets to being a successful mentor.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness

Ask the Doc: Working out in a Winter Wonderland

Article
1/20/2021
A Soldier assigned to 10th Combat Aviation Brigade spends part of his lunch break getting a quick workout on the ice. So far, 2021 has seen the type of North Country winter weather that is making the Fort Drum ice rink a hot spot for outdoor recreation. Since the rink opened on Jan. 25, it has seen more activity in the first 10 days than all of last season with nearly 800 skaters in attendance. (Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

Dear Doc: Although my gym has opened back up, I’m still a little hesitant to return because of the recent spikes in COVID cases in my area. I’ve been getting creative with my home workouts, and I’d really like to be outside more, but it’s so cold! I want to bundle up, but I don’t want to overdo it and get overheated. Do you have any recommendations for dressing for outdoor workouts in the winter? –Working Out in a Winter Wonderland

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Winter Safety | Ask The Doc
<< < ... 6 7 8 9 10 > >> 
Showing results 106 - 120 Page 8 of 10
Refine your search
Last Updated: April 28, 2021
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery