Winter time can definitely be a challenge to practice outdoor sports. Going out when it’s snowing and cold can hinder even the most motivated runners goals. But what if we told you there are actually some benefits to running in sub zero temperatures and surrounded by snow?
Apart from vitamin D exposure (if it's sunny enough), outdoor winter running can be beneficial in many ways. You just have to take the proper approach, follow a few tips and be aware that during the intermediate phases, when snow is starting to melt, is when there is more risk of potential injuries due to slipping.
It’s all about getting into the right mindset and also preparing your gear in advance. A proper setup will go a long way, and will be the difference between a refreshing run outdoors or one you want to forget.
Be aware that a snow kilometer is harder to accomplish than one done under regular weather conditions. Snow and ice will make you run at a slower pace to help you keep balance in slippery floor conditions. Trying to maintain your spring or fall times is out of the question, just focus on being outside and getting those miles in.
Long sessions are also a challenge. The longer the session, the harder it is for the body to keep up the heat. Some runners are more affected than others, especially with breathing, as the trachea can feel affected by the low temperatures. Find your tolerance threshold and don’t go beyond that point.
Tips for running in cold weather
Before you head out, here are some useful tips you can follow:
- Make sure you check the weather forecast. Apart from temperature, if it starts to rain or snow, the running path can be altered significantly.
- Warm up inside your house, before you venture outside. Dynamic stretches are preferable before your run.
- Start your run at a slow pace, then safely build up.
- Staying hydrated is very important. Remember, your body still needs water even though it’s cold. Make sure you’re hydrated before you leave and take water to drink during your run.
- Cool down when you are finished. Your body needs some time to adjust. Make sure you can have a shower and something warm to drink soon after you are done, don’t allow the cold to set in.
- If you suffer from cardiovascular disease, please check with your doctor in advance. Blood pressure can rise due to cold temperatures.
- Dry, cold air can take its toll on your lungs. Check your respiratory system before you try running in sub-zero temperatures.
- Be careful with hypothermia. Being outside in the cold in - 20ºC or below can be risky, especially if you don’t wear the correct clothes.
Benefits of running in the cold
Running in the cold, if done right, can be very beneficial for your health. Not only will it help you stay active during the winter months, but it can also help speed up your metabolism. Our bodies tend to slow down during the winter months, and by going out for a run in the cold you can manage to trick your body.
Having an active body can have a positive impact on your mind. Staying active during winter can keep energy levels and your general mood high.
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing
Winter running essentials
"There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing". This Swedish saying should be applied as a rule of thumb before you go winter running. Dress appropriately and you will reduce the risks of hypothermia.
When you choose your garments, have in mind that you should wear clothes for 10 to 25 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. Once you start to run and break a sweat, you will adjust to the right temperature.
Layering is key, so choose outerwear with a front zipper. This way, you will be able to adjust on the fly, unzipping your jacket if you get heated, or zipping it up if it gets chilly or windy.
Your winter running closet should include some of (if not all) these garments:
- Winterized running shoes are a must. You can either buy a pair of specially designed winter shoes, with a studded rubber sole to provide traction, or invest in spikes that can be attached to your regular running shoes. If they are waterproof and insulated, even better.
- A reflective item. This can come already on your jacket design, or you can add reflective tape to your clothing. This will make it easier for drivers to see you in low light, cloudy or foggy conditions.
- A pair of gloves will ensure your hands don’t suffer from frostbite. Mittens are another great option. If you tend to have extremely cold hands, you can also layer your mittens on top of your gloves to keep them toasty.
- Socks will keep your feet dry and warm. Make sure they are made from materials that will keep your feet dry, like wool.
- A hat or beanie is a must have, since most of our body heat is lost through the head. It must cover your ears and be made with materials that allow perspiration.
- A scarf or neckwear is always a good idea to protect your face from the wind and cold.
- A long sleeve inner shirt. This will be your base layer and will help keep your body warm. Avoid materials that don’t favor perspiration or that can get damp quickly, like cotton. Merino wool or a technical fabric are always a great choice.
- A pullover, that will act as an intermediate layer if you need it.
- A running jacket. Your most external layer. Wind-proof and water resistant options are the best choice to have you covered if the weather gets rough.
- A pair of warm running tights. Having inner fleeced tights can make a huge difference in extreme temperatures.
Don’t let the winter blues stop you from staying in touch with nature. Get out there and benefit from a clear mind, active body and revitalized soul.