Running in the Winter: What You Need to Know
Updated: Aug 12, 2022
As Physical Therapists, we treat runners during all seasons, especially those who are determined to keep running as temperatures drop. Here is an excellent overview of what runners want to keep in mind when running in cold weather…
Wear the right clothes. You might be tempted to bundle up, but running in cold weather requires lighter, looser gear. Think layers — air trapped between your layers of clothing can be insulation against the cold. And remember, you’ll get warmer as you run; the general rule is to dress like it’s about 20 degrees warmer than it actually is. If the wind is blowing or the temps are below freezing, cover as much skin as possible, including your ears, neck, face and chin.
Choose shoes according to the weather. If there is snow or slush, you’ll want to wear shoes that are weatherproof or at least have very little mesh, in order to keep your feet dry. If the conditions are icy, you may want a shoe that has a sole with more friction to prevent slipping and sliding.
Warm-up for your run inside. It takes longer to warm up your body in colder weather. Perform a dynamic warm-up for 5-10 minutes including jumping rope, riding a stationary bike, or doing jumping jacks before going outside. If you’re sweating before you’ve even started your run, you may need to remove a layer of clothing before heading out.
Don’t measure yourself against your summer statistics. Your winter runs won’t look the same as your warm weather runs for a variety of reasons. Your strides may not be as long because you’re trying to avoid icy patches on your trail. You may fatigue more quickly as your body is trying to stay warm in the colder weather. Or it may simply be too cold to stay out as long as you would in better weather. Most importantly, stay positive since you are still able to run despite the change in weather.
Be safe. Take your cell phone on your run and make sure it’s fully charged. Try not to run alone, particularly at night or when there is low visibility. If you do run with low visibility, wear a reflective jacket or flashing light — or both — to make sure that drivers, cyclists and other pedestrians can see you. If you don’t have a running buddy to go with you, be sure to tell a friend or family member about your planned run and text or call them again once you are home.
Change your clothes as soon as you’re back from your run. Staying in damp, sweaty clothes after a long run can lower your core temperature. Put on some fresh clothes as soon as you’re inside and have a hot drink or eat some soup in order to regulate that body temp. After an hour or so, if you are still shivering, slurring your speech, or are confused, these may be signs of hypothermia — which means you need to see a doctor right away.
Pay attention to your body. As with running any other time throughout the year, listen to what your body is saying. Without a proper warm-up, risk of injury can increase, especially in the colder weather. If you experience intense pain after your run, or if you have pain persisting for multiple days that does not subside with rest, talk to your physical therapist.
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