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Running in the cold

The cold winter weather can be an intimidating time for runners, especially if you’re not used to running in the cold. But if you prepare properly and dress appropriately, running in the cold can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Here are some tips for running in the cold weather. 

  1. Dress in layers. The key to staying warm while running in the cold is to dress in layers. Choose moisture-wicking fabrics like polyester and wool to keep you dry and warm. A base layer of lightweight top and vest or a mid-layer of a fleece or wool shirt, and a top layer of a wind-resistant jacket will keep you warm. Also, consider a wicking hat, mittens or gloves, and a neck gaiter to keep your head, hands, and neck warm. If you have Raynaud’s make sure to keep your core warm with a vest and hand warmers.  This condition is when your body thinks you are going into hypothermia so it pulls blood flow from your extremities.  By keeping your core warm (and as dry as possible) you will prevent your body from pulling blood flow from fingers and toes.  If you are going for a longer run bring a light puffy jacket!
  2. Prepare for the elements. Cold weather running can be slippery and icy. Make sure you have the right shoes for the conditions. A pair of trail running shoes with aggressive tread and added grip will provide you with the traction you need for a safe and enjoyable run.  Always check conditions and make sure your route is safe.  Be mindful of high winds and falling trees, exposure above treelined and icy or deep snow conditions.  Always evaluate river crossings to make sure you can navigate safely on your return trip as well.
  3. Warm up and cool down. Warming up before you run helps to get your muscles and joints loose and ready for the run. Spend some time easing into your run by moving at a slower pace to allow your muscles to warm up.  After your run get out of your wet or damp clothing and immediately put on dry warm clothes.
  4. Hydrate. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can skip the water. Make sure to stay hydrated throughout your run, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Bring a water bottle along with you, or plan your route so that you can make stops at your car, a house, shelter, etc to refill.  If temperatures are below freezing you will want to keep your water closer to your body and can wrap it in clothing.  Starting with warm water can slow down the freezing process.  If using a hydration bladder keep the hose insulated or tucked inside your jacket.
  5. Listen to your body. Running in the cold can be hard on your body, especially if you’re not used to it. Make sure to listen to your body and rest when you need to. If you feel like you’re getting too cold or too tired get to a warm place or try to move quicker to warm up.  Always bring a puffy with you in case you get really cold.  It could save your life and make you feel better!  If temperatures are extremely cold plan short loops so that you can warm up in a car or building between laps or you can just run indoors.

Running in the cold can be a great way to stay active during the winter months. Just make sure to dress appropriately, prepare for the elements, warm up and cool down, stay hydrated, and listen to your body. With these tips, you’ll be well-prepared for a safe and enjoyable cold weather run.