The cold can be a fierce competitor when trying to run.
To help you manage the cold so you can keep doing what you love, we have compiled 7 different ways for you to stay warm and keep your body healthy during the winter season.
1. Understand How Your Body Loses Heat
Loren Greenway, CEO of the Wilderness Medical Center says that keeping yourself warm is about understanding convection and conduction. Conduction moves heat from object to object, while convection transfers heat between mass and moving gas or fluid. Meaning, conduction is the feeling of the cold ground underneath you, while convection is the feeling of icy wind or snow surrounding you.
When you know how your body loses heat, you can understand when to recognize the warnings signs of your body getting too cold, so can keep youreself from dangerous situations during the winter months.
Shivering? Get to A Warm Place
Your body should settle at a comfortable core temperature of 98.6°F (36.9°C). When your core temperature starts to drop, your body sends warning signals of shivering. Shivering is your muscles contracting in attempts to keep your body warm, which can feel like your body shaking and your teeth chattering.
When you start to shiver, it is time to turn in for the day and get to a warm place. Mild hypothermia will cause your body to shiver, but moderate to severe hypothermia will show no signs of shivering. Your core temperature will start to plummet, which puts you in a dangerous situation. Monitor your body's temperature and stay close to civilization to keep yourself at a safe core temperature.
2. Protective Gear and Layers
The right gear can keep you well protected against the elements when you need it most. Luckily, running gear is created with moisture wicking technology that can cover you from the top of your head, all the way down to your socks.
Your running temperature is roughly 20 degrees warmer than what the temperature is outside, but it all depends on your body's response to cold and windy conditions. Most runners will say they overdress when it is cold, it just depends on your preference and comfort.
The Essential Layers
There are three essential layers that you should include when attempting to run in the elements. Be sure to have a base layer that wicks away moisture and can stay tight with your movements. The second layer is the insulation layer that provides your body with more warmth and protection. Look for materials that have insulation technology, but also can wick away moisture. Merino wool, microfleece, and Polartec are a few that can help you stay comfortably warm during those harsh weather runs.
The third layer is the outer shell, which should act as a windbreaker. Whether you are experiencing light snow fall or are attempting to run with blustery wind, it is important to keep your body well protected from the elements. The outer shell should also be water resistant to ensure you stay dry. The least you want to do is become wet and cold.
Complete your layers with a hat, gloves, and thick socks to keep your feet warm and dry.
3. Energy From Nutrition and Hydration
Nutrition is important all year round, but it even more so, it plays a key role in keeping your body temperature up. Nutritional expert and founder of Power of Food, Adam Hart, says nutrition can make or break a run.
Carbohydrates and fatty acids are essential for runners who want to perform their best. Healthy fats regulate your core temperature, which can assist you during long winter runs. Hart suggests quinoa and dates for quick replenishment of healthy carbohydrates that can push you to better performance.
Hydration is also important with nutrition. Even on cold days, your body needs the right amount of water to perform at its best. Supplement your nutritional needs with foods that contain water, or simply by replenishing your body with water or an electrolyte drink. Keep your core warm through nutrition and hydration to combat the stressors of running in the cold.
4. Warm Up Beforehand
Warming up inside, or jogging lightly before increasing the intensity of your run can ease your body into movement for healthy cold weather running. Stretching your muscles before they are properly warmed up can lead to potential injury, so be sure your body is warmed up and ready.
Different warm ups can target different muscle groups that can ease your body into handling the cold outside. Try out simple warm ups before heading out, and only stretch when your body is properly warm.
Staying warm also involves when you return from a run. Your core temperature will begin to drop as you return home, which means you need to change your damp clothes quickly to avoid getting sick.
5. Learn to Acclimatize
Acclimatize to your environment by being outside, even when it is cold outside. The more time you spend outside, the more your body will get used to the change in weather. Being physically fit can also help you manage the cold, but if you are thin, you may be at a disadvantage in being able to acclimatize because of the lack of body fat.
Adjust yourself slowly to the cold. Be careful not to overwhelm your body or stay out too long to the point of it being dangerous. It is possible to reset your ability to handle the cold, but if your hands or feet become numb, it is time to head back home for the day.
Daylight hours are less during the winter, which means you may often find yourself running in the dark. Be sure to wear reflective gear and always carry a headlamp with you to alert drivers and other pedestrians.
6. Cross-Train For Variety
Cross-training is already an essential part of running, but it almost becomes a necessary outlet during the winter months. Yoga For Runners, doing laps at the pool, or strength training can all help your body stay fit during the cold season. It can vary your fitness times and still give you the satisfaction of a solid workout.
For many outside runners, it can be challenging to accept using a treadmill. However, if you have your eye on a race in the spring season, you will need to take up running during the colder season. Split up the times you need to run, by only doing a treadmill workout for a small amount of time each day. If you are feeling more ambitious or need to get in those miles, try twice a day or look for an indoor track you can train on.
Winter is a great time to strengthen your muscles that get less attention during the peak of running season. Even by including winter sports, you can maintain your strength and keep your body fit in the way you need.
7. Safety Before Anything Else
Safety comes before anything else. No matter the season, be sure to monitor your body's needs and respond to them. The winter months can bring some harsh weather, which means your body can be in danger of getting too cold. Keep your body warm with the proper warm up and the right amount of layers for optimal core temperature.
Stay motivated and safe by having someone to train with. Having another person helps you stay aware of your surroundings and helps determine whether it is a good idea to run outside on bitter cold days.
If you have any skin exposed while running in the cold, then consider the simple trick of adding vaseline to your bare skin. Vaseline is water resistant and keeps your skin warm.
Running in the cold is not for the faint of heart, but it is possible. Equip yourself with the right gear and knowledge to make running in the cold more manageable. By the time spring comes again, you will be more than ready to conquer new terrain and challenges.