Why Cold Weather Running Is the Best (Even When It Seems Like the Worst)
As the nights start to draw in and the temperatures plummet, it is hard to look forward to going out for our daily run. It seems so much easier just to put it off and curl up on the sofa in our warm living room with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa.
The only problem is that by doing this you are going to miss out on the multitude of health benefits that you get from running in cold weather. So, sit up, put away that cocoa and learn why you should be braving the elements to keep running through the winter.
Benefits of Cold Weather Running
The hardest part of cold weather running is starting. When you first leave the house, the cold is biting. Standing there in your training gear with a chill breeze cutting through you, making it easy to just turn around and return to the house, however, the key is resisting this temptation.
Once they get started, and their body begins to warm up, many runners say that they actually enjoy cold weather running and prefer it to running when it is hot.
According to research conducted at the University of Aberdeen, when you run in cold weather, your heart does not need to pump blood to the skin for cooling in the way it does in hot weather, so you are able to run with the same intensity but at a lower heart rate. This helps to reduce tiredness and means that you have more left in the tank for a final burst towards the end of the run. For this reason, cold weather running is a perfect opportunity to work on your stamina and endurance.
Advantages of cold weather running
Another distinct advantage of running in cold weather is that when you run in low temperatures, your body burns more calories. It doesn’t just do this while you are running but while you are cooling down too. Your body will try to keep you warm and to do this, it increases your metabolic rate to burn more fat.
The increase in your basal metabolic rate is maintained even after you have finished running as your body attempts to return to a normal temperature. This makes cold weather running a fantastic way to burn off the extra calories that are picked up over the festive period.
It helps build strength
If you are looking to build strength then winter running is the perfect way to do that. When you run in the winter you are often running in slippery conditions where your footing is not always certain. This is especially true when you are running in ice or snow. To compensate for this, your body starts using muscles that it doesn’t normally use in an attempt to help you maintain balance.
Think about how much your body tenses when you walk on snow. Muscles in your legs, back, shoulders and arms all tense up. That tensing that you can feel is thousands of muscles all contracting and working to keep you balanced. So when you run, these muscles are constantly tensing and relaxing in what really amounts to a strength session for muscles you don’t normally work on.
One of the most rewarding benefits of cold weather running is the mental strength that it builds. By pushing yourself to go out each day to run and face the freezing weather, you realize that it is often beneficial and indeed enjoyable to do things that your body and mind may not initially want to. This can also lead to increased confidence and motivation in other parts of your life too.
So as you can see there are a lot of great reasons why you should run in cold weather, however, it is important to remember that you need to make sure you are prepared and equipped to reap the benefits,
What You Should Remember
One of the most important things that you need to do before you start cold weather running is getting prepared. It is important that you are able to stay warm and safe when running in cold conditions. You need to dress in layers. This lets you take off unnecessary clothes as you begin to warm up. You can then put them in your backpack and keep running.
Winter running gives you an opportunity to splash out on top end running gear if you really want to, but you don’t have to, it is just a case of dressing appropriately. For example, gloves and an insulated hat are a definite must, as is a good quality windproof jacket. You should also make sure you have good running shoes with grips designed for winter use and winter running socks.
When you run in low temperatures you need to drink a lot more water. Your body will use up water much faster as when you sweat, the water doesn’t stay on the skin but immediately evaporates causing your body to produce more sweat. Make sure you take enough water with you and drink it regularly while you are running. Also, take lots of fluids before and after your run to make sure that you don’t dehydrate.
The most important thing when running in cold weather is that you stay safe. Try to find some clear paths or roads to run on. The next time it snows, have a look to see what paths and roads are cleared first. You will often find that these include colleges, schools, office parks and other places with private maintenance employees.
Be careful when running near roads as it is just as slippery for cars as it is for you. Try to stay off the roads where you can, but where you can’t, make sure that you run against the traffic, so you can see what’s coming towards you.
If you are running in windy weather, you should run into the wind on the way out and with it behind you on the way back. This will help you to stay warmer. It is also important to protect your face from the chill wind. A good pro-tip is to invest in some Vaseline to put on exposed parts of your face. It is waterproof and will help to keep your face from freezing up.
So, don’t think about hibernating like a bear this winter and get out there and enjoy some rewarding cold weather running. It has some amazing benefits for your mind as well as your body, and as long as you prepare and remember some basic points, you will find that it is much more enjoyable than it seems before you set out.