As the weather starts to get colder and the days begin to become shorter, you may feel compelled to stop your morning run in favour of a cozy cup of warm coffee while wrapped up on your couch. No judgement here, we understand that frigid temperatures, high winds, icy sidewalks, and heavy snowfalls often deter people away from running throughout the winter. And while it may be difficult to find your motivation this Winter, research shows that running outdoors throughout the colder months actually has many benefits! We want our clients to feel motivated and safe lacing up their running shoes this Winter, so here are our top three tips to make the most of cold weather running.
Benefits of Winter Running
Before we jump into all of our cold weather running tips, we thought it might be helpful to explain why you should continue to run throughout the Winter in the first place. Is it really worth all the extra care and effort? YES! There are so many amazing health benefits that come from running in colder temperatures that will help you stay motivated. For starters, keeping up your running routine all year long will do wonders for your performance and endurance. If you are a competitive runner, you know that a steady routine throughout the chilly months will help you perform better come race season. The colder temperatures actually reduce the amount of cardiovascular strain on your body and make it easier to run compared to in Summer heat.
It’s also great for boosting your metabolism when it is so tempting to lose your healthy eating and exercising habits throughout Winter. The colder temperatures force your body to work harder to keep its core temperatures up and blood flowing which is great for your running and resting calorie burn. And perhaps one of the most important benefits you get from Winter running is related to your mental health. Seasonal blues are quite common during the colder months so getting your daily dose of vitamin D and endorphins is very beneficial. Now that you know some of the benefits of cold weather running, here are the team’s top three tips to ensuring you can do so in a safe and healthy way!
Tip # 1: Gear Up
Dressing smart and layering properly is one of the easiest ways you can take the sting out of winter running. You should feel slightly cool before running so we recommend dressing like there is an additional 10 to 20 degrees to the outside temperature to account for your body’s running temperature. Always opt for a warm core layer that will absorb moisture away from your body (so avoid cotton), another layer over top, and a wind-breaking outer layer that you can take off if necessary. Ideally, this outer layer will also add some visibility to your outfit so that you can be easily seen during the darker winter days and nights.
It’s crucial to always protect your extremities because your hands, feet, and head account for a significant amount of heat loss. Choose warm socks, a headband, gloves, and even a face covering for those extra cold runs. It’s also smart to find clothing that has zippers around your neck and underarms so that you can unzip them if you get too hot while running. Don’t forget to invest in the proper running shoes to avoid slips and falls. Waterproof socks and shoes will save you loads of trouble throughout the winter, as well as shoes with plenty of traction and grip. Studded winter running shoes are a great option or even wearing ice grips over the soles of your shoes for better traction.
Tip #2: Warm-Up
As with any kind of activity, a good active warm-up is always important. This is especially the case in the Winter months to help prepare your body for the colder temperatures. Your muscles and joints take longer to warm up in lower temperatures, so you need to give your body time in order to prevent any unnecessary injuries. Warm-up inside to help increase your core body temperature and promote good blood flow to your muscles before heading out. This can be as simple as doing some jumping jacks or jogging in the spot to get your body moving. This is the perfect time to do those warm-up routines that your LiveWell Physiotherapist has been giving you! You should aim to move your body enough just to the point of light sweat and a raised heart rate.
Tip #3: Pace Yourself
Try to think of Winter running as a maintenance exercise, not as a way to improve your speed. Be flexible with pace and mileage so that your body has time to adjust to different terrain. Snow, slush, and ice all create uneven running surfaces that force your stabilizing muscles to work harder – do not overwork them or you risk injury. These conditions make speed and performance less of a priority when you are trying to avoid slips, falls, and trips. Always aim for shorter strides to help you maintain your balance while running outdoors. Try to set a more conservative pace and mileage during these months compared to your Spring or Summer training routines. Remember that sometimes, despite all of these tips, the Winter conditions will just be too harsh and dangerous to run in. Be flexible and open to trying indoor exercises instead to help you maintain your fitness routine at home in a safer environment.
We hope that this blog helps you feel more comfortable running throughout the colder months ahead! Remember that with the proper precautions and gear, staying active throughout Winter is so important for your overall physical and mental health.
Give us a call at (519)880-1733 or fill out our contact form with any questions and to learn how physiotherapy can enhance your overall quality of life. We’re also always happy to help answer any general physiotherapy and wellness questions, provide you with health tips, and schedule a consultation. Just ask!