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How to Run in Cold Weather

How to Run in Cold Weather

By Rachel Korowitz

It's 30 degrees outside, and the last thing in the world you actually want to do is go running because warm snuggly couch, much? Plus, your dad's all, "You'll catch a sniffle" and your brother's like, "Duh! Hello? Frostbite!"

We know it feels like the chilly weather is personally out to get you, but while the conditions aren't exactly ideal, there's no reason for you to give up on your exercise just because the thermometer reads "OH HECK NO.

Q: Isn't running in the cold bad for me?
Nope. Unless the cold triggers your asthma or you have other temperature-related issues (in which case, talk to your doctor first), running the cold is a-okay. In fact, you may burn a few more calories by working out in the cold. Of course, use your best judgment; if it's 20 below and sleet-storming, maybe it's treadmill time, you know?

Q: But what about that thing where it feels like my lungs are burning out of my chest?
It's uncomfortable, but not harmful, so tough noogies. It's just your body dealing with processing air that's colder and drier than the air in your body, and if you hate it, you can always run with a neck gaiter or a balaclava. (And then you look like a ninja, so, bonus.)

Q: Won't I freeze my tenders off?
Not if you dress right, silly. First off, you want to make sure you're not wearing anything made of cotton. In any kind of weather, cotton is a runner's big-time enemy.

Q: Why? Cotton's soft.
Yeah, we know, but cotton's designed to absorb moisture and hold on to it. When you're working out and sweating, a cotton tee will suck it all up and stay damp, which means that a) the material will be heavier, b) that heavier material will stay close to your skin, c) you'll have a better chance of chafing and getting blisters, and d) since that moisture ain't goin' nowhar, you'll be wet and cold. (Or, in the summertime, wet and hot.)

Q: So what am I supposed to wear, smart guy? Er—gal? Whatever?
Clothes made from tech materials. These are special materials and clothes designed for runners, and they're engineered to wick moisture away from your skin and keep you chafe-free. Since you won't be wearing wet, heavy clothes, you'll stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

Q: Dress me.
No problem. When it's super cold out, you want to make sure you layer your tech clothes. You can read a great guide to it here, but the basics look like this:

  • Dress like it's 15-20 degrees warmer out than it actually is. Your body's going to heat up as you run, so if you pile on everything in your closet, you're going to be pretty peeved around mile two.
  • Wear a close fitting long-sleeved base-layer. This will go under all your other layers. (Except your sports bra. If you're a lady. That goes underneath.)
  • If it's crazy cold out—less than 10 degrees Farenheit—wear a secondary insulating layer on top.
  • If it's windy or there's precipitation, a windproof or waterproof layer goes on top. Be warned: this sucker is usually tight as a drum and holds in tons of heat.
  • On the bottom, the closer the fit, the warmer you'll stay. Go for some sort of running tight. (Running tights look like leggings, so if you're worried about modesty, you can always wear a pair of shorts over 'em. If you don't have running tights, use pantyhose for a short-term fix. They'll keep you toasty, but since they're not made for sports, they're not a permanent solution.)
  • If it's super cold, layer running pants over your tights. (Note: Running pants by themselves won't keep you nearly as warm as the tights will.)
  • Since your body's working to keep your core goodies warm, your extremities can get dangerously cold pretty quickly. Make sure you wear tech gloves, tech socks (especially something like Smartwool for the winter months), a hat (which is also great for blocking sun glare), and an ear cover if you need it.
  • As always, use sunblock on any exposed parts of your face, and some kind of moisturizer for your lips. Once you're in Chap City, it's hard to come back.
  • If you're running on ice, you might want to check out easy-on grippers like these.

Q: Do I still have to drink water and stuff?
Yep—and maybe more than you normally would. Since cold air is drier than warm air, you want to be extra vigilant about making sure you've got enough water, and drinking long before you're thirsty. The general rule of thumb is to intake six to eight ounces of water for every 20 minutes of activity, but you may need more or less depending on how cold it is and what your specific needs are.

Q: What about afterward?
As always, make sure you do your stretches, and do your best to get some protein—something like a turkey sandwich or a bowl of chili—in you not too long after. It'll keep you from getting the hungry-mungries all day.

Q: Anything else, Mom?
Yes. We love you. Don't go swimming for thirty minutes after you wear a scarf, because your face will freeze that way.

Do you go running in the winter?

Related post: Why You Should Take Up Running

Topics: Life
Tags: exercise, health, winter, running

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