7 Tips for Running Outside During the Winter

Avid runners won’t be stopped by a sudden drop in exterior temperature. Maybe you’ve seen these fitness fanatics dressed in leggings and nylon jackets, and running in sub-zero temperatures.

Many of them do this throughout the winter months, but did you know that cold air can burn the lungs and make your limbs feel numb? How do these runners pursue their exercise in such cold conditions?

You’d probably prefer to stay inside and feed logs to your wood-burning stove while sipping a hot beverage, but if you’ve been training the rest of the year, it’s worth keeping up your steady running even in winter.

But you might need some tips to keep it up. Improper care and preparation may lead to injury. At the very least, you could experience breathing problems. Follow these seven suggestions below for safe winter running.

  1. Dress Appropriately

Success with cold outdoor running begins and ends with what you wear. You already know how to run; now you have to protect your skin from the elements.

Frostbite is not uncommon among inexperienced winter runners. Use these dressing tips for warmth and health:

  • Layers: When you run in below-freezing conditions, wear layers. The more layers you wear, the warmer you’ll be. Multiple levels of clothing is a better approach than a single, thick piece of cover, because you can remove the outer layers if you become too hot.
  • Skin Coverage: As a rule, it’s wise to cover more skin the colder the ambient air becomes. If the temperature is above or near freezing, you can get away with an exposed neck and face. However, temperatures in the teens and below demand long running pants, a long jacket, gloves, a scarf, and a hat at the very least.
  • Mind the Degrees: Check the thermometer before heading out to determine what you should wear. Use this chart from RunnersWorld to select an appropriate outfit for your run.
  • Don’t Overdress: If you follow the chart mentioned above, you should avoid this problem, but each person heats differently. Overdressing is a common error among outdoor runners in the winter, which can lead to overheating and a fever. In general, dress as if it’s about 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature.
  1. Monitor Your Sweat

Perspiration is not easy to monitor when you’re running in the cold, since you’re typically wearing multiple layers that evaporate or soak into the fabric. Go with high-tech fabrics that contain wicking material so they don’t absorb your moisture, and you’ll stay warm and dry. If you start to feel soaked, you should head inside and change before continuing your run.

  1. Get Used to the Air

The burning sensation when you breathe in cold air is one of the hardest things for new cold-weather runners to get used to. Your lungs will grow accustomed to it eventually, but if you rush the matter, you could develop` a dry, hacking cough commonly known as runner’s hack.

For a few days leading up to your first run, spend 10 to 15 minutes outside, but walking slowly and breathing in the air. Take deep breaths and fill your entire lungs. This will condition them so you can breathe more easily.

  1. Run with Someone

It’s always smart to run with a buddy; winter temperatures make this even more prudent. Not only will company distract you from the cold, but you’ll be safer with a friend around. If, on the off chance, you become too cold or struggle to breathe, you’ll have a buddy to call for help.

  1. Warm Up

Every run should be preceded by a warm-up, but a cold-weather run requires a longer session for health and safety. It takes more time for your body to warm up in cold weather, obviously, especially in the morning hours.

Start with a five-minute walk and then jog easily until you feel a little warmer. It may take 10 to 15 minutes of slow jogging until you’re fully warmed up and feeling like your normal self.

Don’t push this; you’ll only injure yourself. You could try warming up inside your house or taking a hot shower (without getting your hair wet) before you run, to speed up the process. 

  1. Hydrate

You’re less likely to feel thirsty when it’s cold, so you may forget to hydrate sufficiently. But you need water just as much during this time of year as in the summer.

Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your run to prevent dehydration. To keep your water supply from freezing, fill the bottle with warm fluids or store it close to your skin.

  1. Start Slow

Above all, don’t try to go too fast. It will inevitably take more time for your body to acclimatize to cold-weather running, and pushing it will likely lead to injury.

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