Running in the Cold

Running in the Cathedral; Picture taken by  Vincent Brassinne from
Running in the Cathedral; Picture taken by Vincent Brassinne from

If you’re like me, you are dreading winter, and although that picture of someone running in a winter wonderland is cool, you would rather climb a mountain than run outside in the snow. At the same time, if you are like me, you’re also torn between hating the treadmill and hating the snow. As winter approaches, here are some tips for running in the cold.

1. Dress for the occasion: Running in the cold can be tricky. I’ve found that every runner holds different ideas of how many layers are needed. For example, when it’s snowing outside, I wear tights. My dad only wears tights if he absolutely must. So he’s that crazy guy running in shorts in the middle of January and February. Don’t let the cold temperatures keep you inside, though. Find what works for you. For me, I run in a headband, gloves, an Under Armour shirt, and either shorts or tights. For longer runs (8-12 miles), I stick to shorts. For shorter runs (3-6 miles) I run in tights. If you don’t own Under Armour or a shirt like Under Armour, dress in two layers. Your upper body will stay cold long after your legs have warmed up. Knowing how to dress is something that is learned by trial and error. I can’t tell you the number of times I went outside with too many layers on and sweat out all the water in my body. Then again, I can’t tell you the number of times I dressed too lightly and shivered the whole run.

2. You still need water: Running in the cold versus the heat produces one noticeable difference: much less sweat. You still sweat, but it doesn’t drip off of you like it did in July. This means that you may not need as much  water on the run, but you still need water. Your body is still using water. You may not feel thirsty, but if you are headed out for a 8-12 mile run, take a water bottle with you. You would never run a 8-12 mile race without drinking water. After you’ve finished running, the first thing you may want to do is warm up, especially if it has been an exceptionally cold day. First, drink water and drink lots. You need it.

3. Let your body adjust: You will probably notice that breathing cold air is hard. It burns your lungs and your chest. You might also notice that the first couple of times your legs seem to have a mind of their own. Give your body the chance to adjust to running in the cold. Embrace cold weather training the way you would embrace hill, interval, or cross training. It will take a little while for your body to get used to the cold. Don’t expect your first cold weather run to be perfect. Continue to challenge yourself while giving your body the grace it needs to perform.

4. Be mindful of daylight: This may seem like a weird tip, but be mindful of when the sun is going to rise and set. The days are about to get a lot shorter. The most important thing to keep in mind when running is safety. Always run against traffic and make sure that the oncoming cars can see you. Avoid running when the sun is setting. Being mindful of daylight can also help you plan your runs for a time of day when it will be warmest. If you have a long weekend run, plan your run around the time when it will be warmest and the sun might be out.

5. Don’t be afraid of the treadmill: After training outside, the treadmill just doesn’t cut it for me anymore. However, if I need to get my run in before classes when the sun isn’t up and it’s 15 degrees, I will head inside. Treadmill training doesn’t provide all that road training does, but it does provide some positives. If you have to run inside, adjust the elevation of the treadmill to practice running “hills.” Practice interval training on the treadmill by sprinting for a minute, jogging for a minute, and so on. Be creative with your treadmill runs. And listen to an audio book, a movie, or a good playlist so you don’t get bored.

Happy running.

One Comment Add yours

  1. lindaktaylor says:

    Back in the day (ahem) when I was a runner (read: “college days”), I was at Houghton in NY where winter came hard and fast. I LOVED running on those frigid mornings–there is something so cleansing about that kind of air–but yes, I had to be prepared and very careful. Nice post!

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