You don’t need to stop your training simply because the weather becomes colder and you want to huddle up on your couch for warmth.
There comes a time when we all need to get the miles in, regardless of what the weather is outside. Whether you’re training for an event or just maintaining your fitness, there’s a need to get the miles in.
With a drop in temperature, the effects on our body change, along with how we should prepare for it.
We’ll explore what happens to your body when you run in cold weather, including effects on the respiratory system and precautions you should take.
What Cold Weather Running Does to Your Muscles
As you start running outside in cold weather, your joint tissues can expand due to the low temperature and low air pressure.
As a result of cold weather, our muscles can become contracted (bunching our shoulders, for instance). These two factors can limit the movement we are able to make while running, and leave us feeling sore afterwards.
If you want to reduce these effects, you should warm up before going out in the cold – either by dynamic stretching or doing some light cardio exercises to get the blood flowing and warm the muscles.
Running In Cold Air Can Lead To Breathing Problems
In cold weather, it’s common to experience respiratory problems – especially if the weather changes suddenly.
Among the unpleasant sensations caused by running in cold, dry weather are restricted breathing, a dry throat, and tight or burning lungs.
This occurs suddenly because you are breathing faster and deeper than normal when you run.
Wearing a scarf or buff over your nose and mouth can mitigate these effects during cold weather running.
By trapping some humidity and heat, the air you breathe is not as cold or dry. Focusing on breathing through your nose is another way to alleviate breathing problems.
It warms up the cold air more than breathing through your mouth does – the only disadvantage is that breathing only through your nose while running can be quite challenging!
Last but not least, you should dial back your intensity for the first ten minutes of your run if you want to avoid cold-weather breathing issues.
In this way, your respiratory system will be able to warm up somewhat, reducing the effects of the cold air.
Why Cold Weather Is Good For Running
Although cold weather can make it difficult to convince yourself to leave your house, you might be surprised to learn that colder air can actually improve your running ability.
What? When? How?
Temperature regulation is the key.
Running generates heat in your active muscles, which dissipates throughout your body. The body then has to work to cool itself down, consuming energy in the process.
Running in cold weather means that your body has to expend less energy on thermoregulation since the environment keeps you cooler anyway.
As a result, you will be able to run harder in a cooler environment compared to a warm one, since you have more energy available for it.
Skin Protection For Cold Weather Running
A very cold, blustery environment can cause significant damage to exposed skin.
If you want to protect your lips, cheeks, and nose from cracks, apply Vaseline or something similar. To counteract wind gusts, you can also wear a buff or face mask covering your lower face.
Safety Tips For Running In Cold Weather
As well as the reduced temperature, cold weather can bring snow, ice, rain, or sleet with it.
Make sure you check the weather forecast before leaving home, and be careful when walking on icy patches.
Strava Beacon and WhatsApp can be used to share your location with a friend or family member in case you need assistance.
Running Gear For Cold Weather
In cold weather, you need to wear running gear that protects you.
The layer closest to your skin should be moisture-wicking, so sweat will not accumulate and you will not be cooled off by it.
As a next step, you should wear an insulating layer. To protect yourself from harsh elements in cold or wintery climates, you need an outer shell.
You lose the majority of your body’s heat through your head, so make sure you wear a hat when you leave the house.
As a side note, you should be mindful of runner’s nipple when running in cold weather – chafing that begins to irritate when you run!
Gear For Cold Weather – Gloves
Running with cold and numb hands can be painful, resulting in cracked skin if left unprotected.
Winter Gear – Base Layers
As mentioned, when running in cold weather, at least two layers are necessary.
Base layers are the clothing layers closest to your skin and should wick moisture away from your skin so sweat cannot gather and cool you down.
After that, you should wear an insulating layer to keep the heat in. Especially in cold and wintery environments, an outer shell can keep you protected from harsh weather.
In cold weather, you should always wear a proper base layer!
Hats And Scarves – Cold Weather Gear
You lose most heat through your head, so always wear a hat – it will keep you warm.
Additionally, we’ve discussed how cold air can negatively affect your respiratory system – so keep warm by wrapping yourself in a scarf or buff!
Running buffs are the ultimate scarf – their thin, closed design means no trailing ends or extra weight.
Besides keeping you warm and wicking away moisture, it will also protect your throat and respiratory system as you run.
Any other tips or tricks for winter running? Share them with us!