Here in Baltimore, average temperatures typically rest somewhere in the 30s during the winter months. As a runner who enjoys warm weather, it’s easy to get discouraged and neglect your fitness routine during this cold spell. But with some proper planning, you can continue to run outdoors and stay in shape.
Is Cold Weather Running Dangerous?
Cold weather running isn’t for everyone, but there’s nothing unhealthy or dangerous about it. (Assuming you dress appropriately and account for the unique conditions.)
While you might feel a “burning” sensation from cold air in your lungs, this is simply your lungs working to warm up the incoming air. As it does, you experience a rapid water loss.
It’s also true that cold weather causes stiff joints and tighter muscles, so you’ll want to take a few extra minutes to stretch out and warm-up prior to starting your jog. But assuming you properly care for your body, there are no serious health concerns with normally cold temperatures.
4 Tips for Running in the Cold
If you’re going to continue jogging throughout the winter – and it is recommended that you continue your workout routine 12 months per year – you’ll want to plan accordingly. Here are a few tips to help you make the most out of your workouts:
1. Layer Up
The first key to safe, successful cold weather running is to layer up. Once your body gets moving, it heats up fast. If you bundle up too much, you’ll overheat. Layers allow you to regulate your temperature and avoid cold-related illnesses. (Another benefit of layers is that you can tie them around you while you’re running and then put them on again after you stop running.)
Holabird Sports, a local Baltimore running and racquet sports specialty shop, encourages under-dressing by roughly 10 degrees. While chilly at first, this helps account for the rise in body temperature as you run.
2. Hydrate Properly
Because it’s more common to sweat during hot weather running, most runners assume that hydration is more important during the summer than the winter. However, this isn’t necessarily true. Your body is still losing moisture and fluids, which need to be replaced.
“The goal of managing hydration during exercise is to avoid extreme dehydration – while also avoiding overhydration,” RunnersWorld.com mentions. “It is perfectly reasonable and acceptable to lose 3 to 5 percent of body weight during physical activity.”
In other words, you’re probably fine hydrating before and after a short or moderate run. But if you’ll be running for longer than an hour, you may also want to consume some replenishing fluids during the run.
3. Prepare for Wind
You can generally get a good feel for what the temperature will be prior to a run. (Just check the weather app on your phone.) The trickier part is accounting for the wind, which can dramatically alter the real temperature.
If temperatures are extremely low and you anticipate a considerable amount of wind, try wearing a facemask or slathering your lips, nose, and cheeks in Vaseline.
Not only does wind impact your skin, but it can also provide resistance, To avoid a painful, frustrating run, try running into the wind for 10 minutes and then turning around so that the wind is at your back for five minutes. This simple trick will provide some relief.
4. Plan Smart Routes
Be smart about where you run. If there’s snow and ice, you should only jog on well-worn roads that have been properly plowed and treated. Avoid side streets and sidewalks where invisible ice can spell disaster. It’s also important to keep an eye on drivers, who may not have as much control as they do during normal conditions.
Stay Fit All Year Round
If you’re unwilling to run in the cold weather, make sure you at least join a gym during the winter. This will help you stay in shape so that you don’t have to start from scratch when the weather warms up.
If you’re trying to stay in shape, consistency is more important than intensity. A few moderately paced jogs each week will do more for you than one high-intensity, long-distance run. Whether it’s outside or indoors, make sure you’re staying active!
I’m a single mother of 2 living in Utah writing about startups, business, marketing, entrepreneurship, and health. I also write for Inc, Score, Manta, and Newsblaze