Don’t Let the Cold Freeze Out Your Running Routine

March 2, 2015

Benjamin Hicks is a certified athletic trainer with 

Mercy Sports Medicine.

The weather around the Midwest has been frigid and nasty lately, but that’s no reason to slow your training. If you’re interested in cold weather running, there are a few things you should know.

Weather Conditions to Avoid:

  • Avoid running in winter storms due to decreased visibility for you and for drivers, and slick roads or sidewalks.
  • If there is snow or ice on the ground, try running in an area that has been cleared of snow and ice and has little to no traffic.
  • Avoid training in temperatures below 25⁰F and wind speeds greater than 5 to 10 mph. This increases the risk for frostbite, frost nip and hypothermia.
  • If you must train in temperatures below 25⁰F, use extreme caution! Be sure to wear several layers and cover exposed skin.

Clothing Recommendations:

  • Upper Body:  Long sleeve thermal underwear is great for a solid base of warmth. Be sure to wear a long sleeve t-shirt and a light jacket over the thermal.
  • Lower Body:  Thermal leggings, tights or running pants are also excellent solid base layers of warmth. Although debated in the running community, you have the option to wear running shorts over the leggings or tights for an added layer of wind break.
  • Head:  A beanie may suffice but a beanie that covers the entire face may be needed if you are prone to having poor circulation. One suggestion is a balaclava.
  • Hands:  The hands are typically the first area of the body to be at risk for frostbite or frost nip. Wearing a thin pair of gloves under a thicker pair of gloves can help keep hands more insulated.
  • Feet:  It's easy to forget one last part of the body, the feet. Wear a thicker pair of socks that go above your ankle. Wool socks are great for this. If you don't have wool socks, try wearing two pairs of socks and making one of the pairs thicker than your normal socks. Longer socks can help keep your ankle and lower leg insulated, even if your pants allow air through.
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: It's always easier and safer to take layers off or sweat a bit more, than to not have enough layers.

Hydration:  Don't under estimate the amount of water your body may lose while working out in the cold. Cold weather can cause you to not have the need to maintain hydration; however, it's important to still bring water on long runs. Just because you may not feel like you’re sweating as much as you would in warmer weather doesn’t mean you’re not losing water in other ways. Hydrate just as you would if it were hot outside.

Diet:  Be sure to maintain a complete and well-balanced diet while training in the winter months. Your body is using food not only for energy during exercise but also to maintain a healthy core temperature. If your body is not able to maintain a healthy core temperature, you are at higher risk for hypothermia, frostbite, or frost nip.

Your body is at greater risk of injury during this time of year due to the temperatures being lower and your body not being at optimal condition when beginning your workout. This can be avoided if time is taken to stretch and perform a total body warm-up with body squats, tuck jumps, lunges, high knees and butt kicks.

Warm-Up:  Be sure to leave adequate time for a longer stretch and warm-up session before beginning your workout. Since the climate is colder, your body needs more time to warm itself and your muscles. Think of your body like a car. Just like your car needs a bit more time to warm up during winter, so does your body.

Cool-Down: Although it is cold out during this time of year, it is still crucial to cool your body and muscles down by taking a five- or ten-minute walk after your workout. Be sure to include a stretching routine during this time just as you do during your warm-up.

Alternatives to Running if Weather is Not Cooperating: If you're unable to train outside and you don't have access to a treadmill or an indoor track, spend time stretching, breathing and foam rolling. Body squats, lunges, planks, and push-ups are basic exercises for flexibility and strength.

Training indoors on a treadmill or running surface is always a safer choice during winter. Now that we're into March, let's hope it warms up.

For more information on performance training, or for help with an injury, contact Mercy Sports Medicine at 314-325-3068.

Benjamin Hicks is a Certified Athletic Trainer with Mercy Sports Medicine.


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