Beat the FREEZE: A Guide to Winter Running

Just because the weather turns freezing, doesn’t mean you should freeze out your exercise. There are many ways to still get your miles in despite the falling temperatures outside.

First off, the main concern of hot weather running is to stay hydrated and to cool off in any way you can: wearing less clothes, keeping plenty of fluids close at hand and letting your body naturally keep you cool with lots of sweat (it’s good for you!).

However, concerns in cold weather running are a bit different. Instead of letting the sweat coat your body, you want to keep the moisture from accumulating, while also retaining heat as much as possible. While doing physical activity out in the cold, the immune system works overtime to keep your internal body temp from dropping to an unhealthy level. Therefore, your defenses are lowered against frostbite and aireborne diseases. Below are a few tips to keep yourself safe while running in the winter.

  • Warm-up! No, we’re not just talking about keeping your body warm. In this case we mean do the proper warm-up exercises! You should always stretch before a run in any weather, but more so in the cold. It’s important because it gets your blood pumping, circulating properly to keep you protected against the sudden temperature change that occurs when you go from the heating to the cold outside. It also helps with the stiffening of the joints.
  • Bundle up. This tip perhaps goes without saying. However, there are some who make the mistake of presuming that physical activity will provide the body all the heat it needs to overcome the cold. This might be true in “cool” weather — e.g. 50 degrees or so — but not when the temperatures drop below the 30s. A general rule of thumb is to add a layer for every ten degrees the temperature drops past 50. For example, at least two layers of warm fabrics are necessary for anything below 40 degrees. Keep in mind that running will generate some heat, so an overcoat or parka might be a bit much, but you absolutely need to make sure your core is covered by at least two items, like a vest with a longsleeve shirt underneath. All of the extremities — head, hands, and feet — are extremely important to protect. Particularly the feet, since you may be stepping repeatedly in the snow. You will need to invest in a thick pair of socks, airtight shoes, and a hat and gloves. Try to get these items with moisture wicking fabrics.
  • Think about your intake. For a winter run, you might want to consider upping your pre-run meal to provide your body with extra fuel needed for the added exertion of the cold. That isn’t to say you should have a four-course breakfast, but perhaps adding a bit more to your diet. For example, eating a bowl of oatmeal with your normal sliced apple.
  • Run with your friends. This is not just for the emotional support of having someone to push you on, but also a practical reason: If you worry that hypothermia might be an issue or the weather takes a sudden turn, then it is good to have someone else there for safety. The buddy system never fails!
  • Be mindful of your perspiration in extreme cold. We mentioned above about moisture-wicking fabrics. These fabrics pull the moisture away from your skin and provide extra protection against the cold that can lead to hypothermia and frostbite, keeping you dry and safe. It is advisable to use moisture-wicking fabrics for any layer of clothing touching your skin while running, like shirts, gloves, hats, and bottoms.
  • Yes, there IS a such thing as “too cold to run”. If the temperatures outside approach below freezing or the snow conditions aren’t conducive to even walking, there is absolutely no shame in staying in and getting your cardio in by other means. Always check the weather before heading out to see if the conditions may change suddenly and become dangerous. Your physical safety is more important than your daily exercise routine.

That’s it! Take these tips and you’re ready to hit the ground running this winter! This content was created and sponsored by Urban Boundaries.