As the weather turns cooler, you may be tempted to hang up those running sneakers for the season until more hospitable temperatures make a comeback. But don't be fooled! You do not need to go into hibernation just because winter is approaching. With a few easy modifications, you can get your fall and winter workouts into your schedule just as easily as in spring or summer. Plus, running in the cold can actually be good for you!
Here are some cold weather running benefits you may not be aware of. They will help motivate you to head out into the elements for a vigorous jog.
- Cold weather running burns more calories. Not only is your body putting in the effort to move one foot in front of the other; 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 fall and 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 don't neglect your breathing, which we'll cover a little later). 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 are obviously significantly lower for a cold weather workout than on a mid-summer run through a sweltering desert.
What to Wear for Cold Weather Exercise
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
- An Armpocket armband to hold your essentials, protect your phone from drops and also provide it with a bit of insulation from whipping winds. These armbands come with a sturdy and adjustable Velcro strap that allows you to easily accommodate the thin or thick winter layers on your arm.
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--a common issue with fall and winter exercise.
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.
If you run when it's warm, there’s no reason why you shouldn't continue running or walking in cold weather--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 jog your heart out.