Is it ever too cold to go running? According to Reebok’s head of fitness Maillard Howell, definitely not. But that doesn’t mean you can just lace up your shoes and hit the pavement when the temperatures drop.
Running in cold weather requires a solid warm-up, proper clothing and equipment, and as difficult as it can be to drink water when it’s cold outside, proper hydration.
“Only when there is a safety issue should you avoid running in the cold,” says Howell. Good news for those looking to continue outdoor cardio year-round or to switch things up a bit during the winter months. And with shorter days and less sunshine, a bit of fresh air is good for the body.
Here is Howell’s top tips for successful and safe winter running! So, put on your sneakers, because it’s time to run!
Never miss a warm-up
Chances are you have a regular warm-up session before each lift and you already know how important it is to never miss a warm-up. While warming up is always important, when it comes to cold weather training like running, warming up can be more vital.
“Cold forces us to focus more on preparing our bodies for movement because our muscles tend to tense up in the cold. This can lead to that stiffness we feel, which is basically a decrease in mobility” , explains Howell.
Warming up properly actually raises the internal temperature of your muscles, which helps prevent injury and can even boost sports performance.
So what type of warm-up is best for training in cold weather?
“Movements that involve and include dynamic movements,” Howell explains. He continues: “One that warms up the muscles of the legs, lower back, calves, glutes and arms, increases heart rate and raises body temperature.” This is what a dynamic warm-up looks like:
Try two rounds of Howell’s Dynamic warm-up before running
- 12 tempo air squats
- 12 good bodyweight mornings
- 12 hamstring scoops
- 12 calf raises
- 12 climbers
- 12 A skips
- 12 puppets
Wear the proper gear
Running in cold weather requires choosing the right outfit/equipment and layering clothes properly. “When it’s cold, our bodies adapt by directing more blood to our central organs and as a result, the extremities tend to cool faster due to decreased blood flow.” Howell said. This is where “proper socks, gloves and ear protection are important in cold weather”. He explains.
Howell is a fan of a thermal layer, a running layer (his usual running shorts and tee) and a lightweight windproof jacket when it comes to winter wear.
But don’t go too heavy. “Keep layers light, as you don’t want to get too hot once warmed up during the run; Thick layers will impair both the comfort and efficiency of your run and can cause you to interrupt the session,” says Howell.
Once the body has warmed up (during the first quarter of a run, we warm up pretty quickly), Howells explains that we actually run the risk of overheating if we wear too many layers. “The thermal layer needs to wick away moisture to avoid getting wet.” He explains.
Once you land on the right gear, you’ll be surprised how much your cold weather running experience improves – it’s pretty much a science and it works.
Don’t skimp on drinking water
It can be hard to drink water when it’s cold, and Howell himself made the mistake of not hydrating properly during the colder months. “It’s a mistake, especially when doing physical activity like running,” he says. “Make sure you have your water bottle handy like you would for your summer runs, and remember that we still lose fluids and metabolites through our sweat, even in cold weather.”
To make hydration a little easier, aim to sip thoughtful water throughout the day to make it a habit; a cup before the coffee, a cup after, and so on.
Take some lip moisturizer
“It’s a small thing but can make a difference on a long run in the cold,” says Howell. It’s the proverbial “pebble in the shoe” for him, as the elements can wreak havoc on your lips during a run, leading to cracking, splitting and bleeding. Hint: lip balm would make the perfect gift for the runner in your life this year.
Don’t wear cotton
As comfortable as cotton is, it can be dangerous when used as a base layer in cold weather because it doesn’t wick away sweat properly, keeping you wet and cold and increasing your risk of hypothermia. Instead, opt for “A moisture-wicking base layer that traps heat and wicks sweat away from your body is important,” says Howell.
Continuing to exercise throughout the winter is important not only for physical health, but also for mental health. By following these important steps before, during and after your runs, your body will keep moving all winter long.