The other day, I invited several friends to go for a run outside. The response I received was “Are you crazy? It’s COLD outside!” I guess that was a no. In fact, during the winter months, that is a typical response. My reply is always the same, “why would the cold weather stop one from continuing to run outside (certain medical issues excluded of course)?” If more people knew the tips and tricks of how to run in cold weather, they too would find that it’s an enjoyable experience to continue to do what you love! Here are a few things to consider for having a great cold weather run:
1. Motivation – Yes, motivation ceases in less than desirable weather. To keep your motivation strong, it’s always a good idea to make yourself accountable. Making plans to run with a friend or a running group will be your saving grace. When someone else is expecting you, it’s less likely you will bail on your run!
2. Winter Apparel – I say this all the time, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GEAR! Having key pieces of clothing to cover the body, is imperative to staying comfortable and warm during a cold day’s run. Fabric that is moisture wicking, wind or waterproof, have thermal lining or breath thermo technology is an advantage. Apparel has made major advancements over the last decade and it’s more than worth the money! Look for items made specifically for running, you want those specific features in the garment that assist run motion and enhance your cold weather run experience.
3. Layering – Keeping most of the exposed areas of the body covered is just as important as having the right gear. The less body surface area exposed, the more heat we preserve. Headwear that covers the head and ears is important because the head is 5 times more sensitive to changes in temperature. In extreme cold temperatures, consider a neck warmer or neck muff. Dress in layers, you can peel off a layer if you overheat. It’s typical to wear a base layer, insulating layer and outer layer during a cold weather run, however it really does depend on what is comfortable for the individual. Consider thermal running pants or tights; no need for bulky long johns.
Remember, you do need to move! Lastly, wear thicker run socks. They are likely to be moisture wicking and warmer. Remember, running shoes are made to release heat generated from the feet. You want your feet to stay warm as possible. If it’s particularly a snowy or rainy day; consider wearing a Gore-Tex upper running shoe. They not only warmer but waterproof. (Yes, people…they do exist!) Running gloves will be your best friend. Fingers and toes are the first to frostbite, so it’s essential that we make them as warm as possible. Gloves that have enough warmth, moisture wicking with texting fingers is important (that way you never need to remove them just before or after a run). You may want to layer your gloves with a liner inside a pair of thermal run gloves in extreme temperatures.
4. Do your Warm-up Exercises Inside – It’s best to do your warm-up indoor, enough to get the blood moving without a heavy sweat. That way, transitioning outside doesn’t feel so cool and you avoid injuries.
5. Think Maintenance Not Speed – winter or cold weather running is not about speed. Colder temperatures impact your pace per mile in several ways; the nervous system naturally reduces muscle contractions, therefore slowing pace. The body becomes less efficient in both fuel source and oxygen production, depleting your reserves quicker. It is also true, that more energy is required to maintain your core body temperature resulting is less energy available for performance. Don’t expect to be fast, the point is to maintain your conditioning.
6. Hydration – During the winter months, dehydration becomes a more serious risk. An increase of fluid loss occurs due to heating incoming respiration, an increase in urine production due to cold stress and sweating. It is more important to hydrate before, during and after a cold run.
7. Safety First – Most cold weather days are grey and cloudy. Be sure you are highly visible in reflective gear or bright colors. Run surfaces can become icy, slippery or snowy, therefore take precautions to slow down and sharpen your focus with each step to avoid falling. Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia, just in case.
8. Check the Temperature – Let’s face it, if it’s greater than -10 degrees F, you don’t have to be a hero. Seek an alternative exercise such as indoor cross-training or treadmill/indoor track running.
For further information on the SAC Run Club or run coaching sessions, please contact Kendra Kainz, NSCA-CPT, RRCA Run Coach Certified, at .