For year-round runners, whether it’s embedded in your DNA or you’re training for a race, cold weather running presents its challenges. Below are some tips to conquer the cold:
Choose your gear wisely:
- How to dress: Dress for 15-20 degrees warmer than the outdoor temperature. You should initially be slightly cold because you will warm up once you start running, and you want to prevent excess sweating.
- Dress in layers: Choose technical, snug fitting fabrics that will wick away the moisture of your perspiration. Outer layers should be water and wind resistant, with front and underarm zippers to help you cool off if you need it.
- Hands: Wear gloves to keep warm.
- Head: Keep your head and ears covered, avoiding anything too heavy that will cause excessive sweating. In extreme cold, wear a balaclava to cover most of the head and face. Cover exposed skin with Vaseline to prevent frostbite.
- Feet: Wear wool socks to keep your feet warm while wicking away moisture. Shoes should have minimal amounts of mesh to insulate you from the cold and keep out any slush. If you prefer specific mesh-covered running shoes, put duct tape over mesh areas to minimize cold and moisture. Keep those as your winter runners.
- Plan your route carefully: Run loops near home versus a long “out and back.” That way if conditions become unfavorable, you’re close to home. Otherwise, ensure that there are places you can go indoors along your route if necessary. On windy days avoid areas along waterfronts where the wind will be strongest, and if possible run into the wind on your way out so that the wind is at your back when you return.
- Be cautious about ice: Shorten your stride and slow your pace on wet surfaces, especially while rounding corners.
- Be seen: Remember there is less daylight and days are often gray. Wear brighter colors and be vigilant around traffic. Take care when you’re coming around high snow banks where drivers may not see you.
Consider the effects of cold on the body:
- Warm-up: Warming up the muscles is particularly important in cold weather. Never go out at race pace. Start slowly until the body feels ready to pick up the pace. Understand that your performance may decrease in the cold and listen to your body.
- Cool-down: The cool-down is important to efficiently return the body to its resting state and aid in recovery. Change out of your running clothes shortly after the cool-down and stretching to avoid getting chilled by trapped moisture or getting overheated indoors. If you’re not going home straight from a run keep a change of clothes in the car or have someone bring them to you.
- Stay hydrated: Because you are sweating less in cold weather, runners often forget to hydrate and may not feel thirsty. You are still losing fluid though so remember to replenish.
Bundle up and have fun out there!!
Reviewed on November 23, 2020
Andrea Minsky is a doctor of physical therapy at the Hospital for Special Surgery Integrative Care Center. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and her doctorate in physical therapy from Rutgers University. Andrea has certifications as a USA Triathlon Coach and in Active Release Technique (ART). Her interests lie in orthopedic and sports-related musculoskeletal conditions. She believes in injury prevention and strives to keep her patients active and safe.