Running in winter weather is not as easy as running in the other three seasons. There are a lot of factors to account for in keeping safe on the roads. Here are some cold weather running tips to keep you safe, warm, and fit over those colder months.
When running in the winter, a big contributor to getting cold is the wind chill effect. Essentially, a gust of wind blows the surrounding warm air that stays around your body. This means your body has to produce extra heat to warm the air around your body, and this takes energy away from your body’s core. This leads to hypothermia faster than just being out in the cold. Imagine when a continuous breeze steals away the warmth from you. It gets colder faster.
The way to prevent that from happening is to invest in a good windbreaker. A windbreaker is made from a synthetic fabric, typically nylon or polyester might be good choices. One way to find out if a fabric is good wind breaking material is to rub your hand on the fabric. Does it feel soft or hard? Harder material is often better for protecting against the wind.
The windbreaker should be put on as a last layer, generally speaking. It will keep the wind from blowing away the layer of warm air from your body. Next, let’s talk about insulating layers.
While a windbreaker is good for keeping you from the punishing wind chill, it is not necessarily good as an insulating material. An insulating material is meant to help warm the pockets of air around your body.
Organic materials such as cotton and wool are not as good as synthetic fabrics. The organic material will often irritate around the areas of the chest, which can lead to uncomfortable pain. Synthetic fabrics should be used because they wick away moisture faster, which can help keep your body warm.
Choose a synthetic fabric that appears to be stretchy and soft. Check the tags to see the properties of the clothing you are buying, too. These fabrics will help keep you warm, because they act as an insulating material.
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes (And Hands!)
Keep in mind these very important areas. They are all strategic places for staying warm. A lot of heat is released from these areas, as sweat glands are located around these areas. Your head can release up to 70 percent of your body heat, just think of how much blood goes up there.
Consider wearing a hat, gloves, and thick socks along with your shoes to help trap heat in. When outside, monitor how your fingers and toes feel. If they feel numb, consider an option for getting out of the cold, such as a warm cup of water or going indoors to a heated place.
These five areas are often used to help cool down. Sometimes you will find the temperature changing with the sun poking in and out behind the clouds. If you feel yourself over heating slowly, consider removing your gloves or rolling your sleeves up. If you feel yourself overheating fast, remove your hat. The rate at which your body overheats can be regulated by keeping some areas of the body less covered than others. This should only be considered at temperatures above 43-45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Be aware that cold weather might affect the way your body operates. It is important to monitor your hunger, thirst, temperature, and the way you sweat. Running on an empty stomach in the middle of the day could mean your body is much colder, as there are no calories being used to maintain body temperature. Sweating produces moisture, and moisture can get cold, leaving your body to feel that cold. Thirst is important, as your body can still sweat profusely during a run, so remember to hydrate correctly. Lastly, if your sweat tastes salty, that could mean you are losing a lot of electrolytes. Consider drinking or eating something meant to replenish your electrolytes in that case.
Cold Weather Means You Have to Use Your Brain
Winter running is often the most beautiful and exhilarating time to run. The cold breeze can be as awakening as any cup of coffee. A fresh coat of lightly falling snow and a pair of high traction shoes can contribute to a most spiritual moment on that city street. But be aware that ice can be invisible and visible, monitor how your body feels and adjust accordingly. Look for spaces where water, snow, and ice will be pushed or pooled, and pick trails or routes that will be clear for you to run in.
Remember that the cold air will change the way your lungs work. Your body will be working to get that oxygen to a temperature that the lungs can work with. It takes a while to adjust, but your body should be able to change. Don’t go out if you have a cold, it might be better to work someplace warm to prevent more damage to your body for the time being.
Assuming that you have a fresh pair of sneakers with some decent tread, that should get you started! Enjoy the outdoors and do not forget to high five all those other runners out there enjoying the season!