Running in cold weather comes with many benefits as long as you know what to wear running in cold weather and what to expect as far as calorie burn and the effects of cold air on your lungs.
Here are some cold weather running benefits you may or may not be aware of. These running “boons” should help motivate you to head out into the elements for a vigorous jog.
- Cold weather running burns more calories than other times (milder or hotter temperatures) of the year. Not only is your body putting in the effort to move one foot in front of another; it's also consuming more stored calories to keep you, your muscles, and your internal organs warm. This is great news if you run to maintain or reduce weight.
- Running in cold weather reduces the effects of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and improves mood. Less light in the winter, along with being cooped up indoors, makes many people feel blue. An outdoor aerobic workout, like running, gets us out in the light, increases the levels of serotonin and other endorphins in our brain and keeps us from turning into sofa lumps watching other people do sports on television.
- Going for a run in the cold is easier on the body. (But pay attention to the lungs, which we'll discuss in a moment). The reason why cold weather running is less physically demanding is simple: the amount of heat stress on your muscles and organs is reduced as the temperature drops. The chances of getting heatstroke on a chilly day are obviously significantly lower than on a mid-summer run through a sweltering desert.
What to Wear Running in Cold Weather
If you remember only one thing about what to wear running in cold weather, remember to dress in layers. Some people sweat a lot (even in the cold), others don’t. Layers let you regulate your temperate as your body adjusts to the elements and the physical exertion you're putting it through. Too hot and sweaty? Well then, tie that light jacket around your waist. Too cold? Put that runner's jacket back on.
Here are a few clothing essentials for running in cold weather:
- Base layers, like long-sleeve, quick-dry technical shirts and running tights.
- Running pants (over the tights) for colder temperatures.
- A hat, headband, or earmuffs designed for runners.
- A running jacket (which you can tie around your waist). The jacket should be thick enough to keep you warm, but not so thick that it’s cumbersome, slows you down, or overheats as your core temperature elevates.
- Cold weather running socks made from Merino wool or moisture-wicking synthetic blends like acrylic, CoolMax, polyester, etc.
- Running gloves or mittens
How Cold Weather Running Affects Your Lungs
Lungs and cold air are definitely not a match made in heaven. When running in cold weather, your lungs want to humidify and warm up the air you inhale. Airways tend to restrict and dry out when running in cold weather, which can lead to a “burning” type of sensation.
You can wear a face mask or scarf to help heat up the cold, dry air you’re inhaling. And while that irritating sensation you feel in your lungs might annoy you, you aren't actually damaging your lungs. After a few cold weather outings, your body should adjust to the lower temperatures.
Why You Should Run in the Cold
If you run when it's warm, there’s no reason why you shouldn't run in the cold--just be careful of slipping on the ice or any other winter-weather obstacles. Learn how to run in cold weather with the proper gear and clothing, then get out there and run your heart out.