Tips for Running in the Cold

Baby, it's cold outside, but don't let that stop you from training!

Winter running can provide some of your best running experiences. It's peaceful, crisp, invigorating, and inspiring. Plus, think about the confidence boost you'll get from being all decked out in your sleek winter running gear. Keep in mind these few simple tips, and you'll not only defy the elements, you'll embrace them: 

Wear technical, moisture-wicking fabric to stay warm and dry. It's our mantra: "Cotton is rotten." Water transfers heat away from the body over 25 times faster than air. Cotton practically throws away your body heat because it absorbs sweat and holds it next to your skin. Plus, when cotton gets wet, it loses its shape and rubs your skin. Instead, wear technical, moisture-wicking fabric that pulls moisture away from your skin, which keeps you warm, dry, and happy. 

Dress as though it is from 15 to 20 degrees warmer than what is on the temperature gauge. Overdressing = overheating = excessive sweating = a cold, miserable you. By dressing as though it is from 15 to 20 degrees warmer than what is on the temperature gauge, you will allow your body to warm up at a natural pace (and gradually) as your exertion level increases. Avoid the temptation to step out the door all warm and cozy. Instead, you should feel a little cold when your start your run. Before you know it, you'll be thanking your lucky GU you didn't overdress. 

Try running tights as a warm alternative to loose pants. It's a pretty simple concept, but tight, form-fitting running clothes will keep you warmer than loose clothes. Tights not only trap body heat more effectively than loose pants, but also provide muscle support and improve blood flow from the compression effects. (The rule applies for shirts, too.) If you're a little uncertain about the whole "tights" thing, then you can always throw on a pair of running shorts over your tights. 

Take a little extra time to warm up. Your body warms up slower in cold weather than it does in warm weather, especially when you run in the morning. Avoid injury by taking a few minutes to warm up your muscles and get your blood flowing before you head out on the door. Walk around your house (or on a treadmill), do some stretches, or even take a hot shower. Foam rollers and muscle massagers are especially helpful in priming the body for cold weather work-outs.

Be especially mindful to consume carbohydrates before work-outs, during them, and after them. When you're cold, your muscles take action to offset lost body heat. Involuntary muscle contractions (such as shivering) and elevateded exertion levels (such as running at a faster pace to warm up more quickly) increase metabolic heat production. As you work your muscles to counteract the cold, you will increase the rate at which you deplete your glycogen stores. Because glycogen comes primarily from carbohydrates, be certain to consume carbs before work-outs, during them, and after them to avoid a bonk and postwork-out fatigue. 

Start your run against the wind. Trust us, it's worth it. By running against the wind on the way out (before you're sweaty) and having the wind at your back on the way home (after you're sweaty), you can avoid a nasty, wind-induced chill. 

Wear either a balaclava or a neck gaiter when the cold air irritates your throat. Do the cold temperatures irritate your throat? While the cold air won't harm your lungs, you can always ease your discomfort by donning either a moisture-wicking balaclava or a neck gaiter. Plus, a balaclava and neck gaiter protects your face from bitter temperatures. 

Take snow and tricky conditions into account when planning your distance and pace. Running on ice and snow requires a greater effort and recruits more muscles than a normal jog down the street. Take challenging conditions into account when planning your runs. As a rule, reduce your distance by 15% to 20% and reduce your pace to a level that ensures safe footing. 

Bring warm, dry post-run clothes. If you're not headed straight to the shower after you finish your run, then bring a change of warm, dry clothes for your post-run. A plastic trash bag comes in handy for hauling your sweaty running clothes back home.

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