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Is it ever too cold to go running? According to Reebok’s head of fitness Maillard Howell, definitely no. But that doesn’t mean you can just lace up your shoes and hit the pavement when temperatures drop.
Cold-weather running requires a solid warm-up, suitable apparel, and gear, and as hard as it may be to drink water when it’s cold outside, proper hydration.
“Only when there is an issue of safety should running in the cold be avoided,” Howell says. Good news for those looking to continue outdoor cardio year-round or shake things up a bit during the winter months. And with shorter days and less sunlight, a little fresh air does a body good.
Here Howell gives you his top tips for successful and safe winter running! So, lace up your sneakers, because it’s time to run!
Chances are you have a regularly scheduled warm-up session before every lift and already know just how important it is to never miss a warm-up. Although warming up is always important, when it comes to cold weather training, such as running, warming up just may be more vital.
“The cold requires us to spend extra focus on prepping our body for movement as our muscles tend to constrict in the cold. This can lead to that stiffness we feel which is essentially decreased mobility,” says Howell.
Warming up properly actually increases your muscles’ internal temperature which aids in injury prevention and can even boost sports performance.
So, what type of warmup is best suitable for training in cold weather months?
“Moves that involve and include dynamic movement,” Howell says. He continues, “One that warms the muscles of the legs, lower back, calves, glutes, and arms up, gets the heart rate elevated as well as raises the body temperature.” Here is what a dynamic warm-up looks like:
Cold weather running calls for choosing the right attire/gear and layering clothing properly. “When in the cold, our body adjusts by shunting more blood to our core organs and as a result, the extremities tend to get cold faster as a result of the decreased blood flow.” Says Howell. This is where, “Proper socks, gloves, and ear coverage is important in cold weather.” He explains.
Howell is a fan of a thermal layer, a running layer (his usual running shorts and Tee-shirt), and a light wind jacket in terms of apparel during the winter.
But don’t go too heavy. “Keep layers light, as you don’t want to feel too hot once warmed up during the run; Heavy layers will hinder both comfort and efficiency of your run and may cause you to abort the session,” says Howell.
Once the body has warmed up (during the first quarter of a run we heat up pretty quickly) Howells explains we actually do run the chance of overheating if too heavily layered. “The thermal layer should be moisture-wicking to avoid remaining wet.” He explains.
Once you landed the right gear, you’ll be surprised at how much better your cold-weather running experience becomes – there’s pretty much a science to it, and it works.
It can be hard to drink water when it’s cold out, and Howell himself has made the mistake of not hydrating properly during the colder months. “This is a mistake, especially during physical activity like running,” he says. “Ensure you have your water bottle handy as you would your summer runs, and remember, we are still losing liquids and metabolites through our sweat even in the cold.”
To make hydrating a bit easier, aim to sip on water thought out the day making it a habit; one cup before coffee, one cup after, and so on.
“This is a little thing but can make the difference during a long run in the cold,” Howell says. It’s the proverbial “pebble in the shoe” for him as the elements can wreak havoc on your lips during a run, leading to chapping, splitting, and bleeding. Hint: lip balm would make the perfect stocking stuffer for the runner in your life this year.
As comfy as cotton is, it can be dangerous when used as a base layer in low temps as it doesn’t wick sweat properly keeping you wet, and cold and raising your chance of hypothermia. Instead, opt for “A moisture-wicking base layer that holds warmth and pulls sweat away from your body is important” says Howell.
Continuing to exercise throughout the winter is important for not only physical health but mental health. Following these important steps before, during, and after your runs will keep your body moving all winter long.