Cold Weather Running

Winter Training

Cold weather running can be a burden to the runner as the cold can have a significant effect on your body’s responses to exercise with increased health risk. The paths can be wet, narrow and slippery and you have to watch your footing as you can slip and slide around in the dark.

However, the biggest obstacle is putting your trainers on and just getting out of the front door.  The thought of running in cold weather can have a profound psychological effect on you and can become a bit of a barrier as it’s dark now before work and afterwards.  Just the thought of going out again in the cold and dark as the cold wind whips your face and burns your lungs….it hurts and so it’s easy to say “I’m not going out for a run today, it’s too cold and dark and depressing”. Then one lost run can turn into many and we go into a downward spiral thinking that we’re not good enough and we’ve missed too much and everyone will be faster than me. Sound familiar?

Fitness is a year round endeavor and keeping positive is part of the challenge so think of cold weather training as a challenge to overcome rather than a mountain that seems too high to climb.  How does a mouse eat an elephant? One bit at a time, so take cold weather training as one run at a time, see it as a way to keep ahead of all of the people who are sat on the couch, focus on your goals for the spring as you emerge from the winter stronger and fitter.  And most of the time I’ve found that the weather isn’t as bad as it looks you just need to be prepared.

The good news is that running in cool or moderately cold temperatures can bring faster race times, remember how horrible it is to run in the heat as the sun zaps your energy?  When you run in cold weather there is  less blood needed to transport heat to the skin for cooling and more blood is available to send needed energy to the working muscles in the legs.  It's a different story if you are running in extreme cold temperatures and luckly we don't really get too much extreme cold weather in Whiteley but running in temperatures of -37 degrees C reduces both your core body temperature and maximal aerobic power which can affect performance plus the extra clothing can also restrict your movement.

If you have sensitive bronchial or asthma cold air can irritate these conditions as inhaled air attracts moisture and heat from the body and can cause dryness of the mouth, a burning sensation in the throat which can lead to coughing.  Wearing a protective cover over the nose and mouth helps most runners as this cover traps the exhaled moisture and warmth of the next inhalation and reduces the above symptoms.

Dressing for cold weather running

The key is to wear the right clothes in the right combination, so dress to stay warm but not too warm, a base layer and a t-shirt with long leggings should be suffice. Dressing in layers ensures you trap your body heat.

Dress to keep dry, a waterproof jacket over the top of your running gear acts as a layer to help you stay drier and warmer.

Dress to protect the extremities, toes, fingers, ears, face and head

Warm up and cool down

A proper warm up is even more important in winter because exposure to cold stiffens muscles and joints.  Starting training runs or races too fast on cold days could result in muscle strain and standing shivering can use up essential fuel stores. Warm up the muscles as well as the heart rate and if you are racing just keep moving/slow running right up until the start.  In winter it is important that you bring extra layers so you can put these on for the cool down especially after interval training as getting cold quickly can lead to injury.

Don’t forget to drink as you can still be dehydrated in cold weather and allow your body to adjust to the cold so don’t go out too fast in the group runs.  Try not to pay too much attention to your training pace on very cold days, just go fast enough to keep warm.

All in all winter training can be fun, running together in the rain, cold and snow brings a sense of acomplishment and achievement, a shared experience that brings us closer together.  I've always said the hardest bit is putting your trainers on and getting out of the door, but by sticking with your training your will have the strength to run faster when the flowers boom in the Spring x