Embracing Winter: The Benefits Of Running In The Cold

Natalie Cecconi
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Cold Runs = Good Runs

When the temperature goes below fifty degrees, it’s time to start doing some runs in the cold. Even if you live in a warm climate this can be a good time to train, just because of the mental boost you get when you face your fears. When it comes time to switch off the air conditioning and bundle up, running, like any other hobby, is fun for some, and an unattractive prospect to others.

Running is no different. We don’t need to look into the training logs of the elite runners of Slovenia to know that they run in the cold and in the heat, in the rain, sleet, and snow. They wear the same clothes in every weather condition, and they do it because they know that when you train in all conditions, you will improve as a runner.

The idea is that when you run in the cold, your body learns to work better in it. Take a run when you’re feeling rested and motivated, and you might see distances you’ve never pushed yourself to run before.

Here are a few reasons why embracing winter is such a great idea:

Running in the cold conditions can motivate you to stick to longer workouts.

Running in the cold keeps your blood flowing.

Running in the cold helps you build good muscle memory without risking injury.

Cold Runs Mean More Calories Burned

If you’ve lived in a place with winters, you’ve probably had your fair share of shivering and complaining about how cold it is while you run. And after you’ve bundled up in a ton of layers and spent all that time preparing for your run, you probably still don’t want to go out in the first place.

But what if I told you that this could actually be good for you? Would you keep on reading? Sure, nobody likes to wear multiple layers and run in the cold. And you’ve probably heard that it’s not the best thing for you, but have you ever wondered why? Why does it seem as if the colder it gets, the less you want to go outside to exercise? Is it just because you’re used to exercising indoors?

First of all, cold weather running makes you breathe harder and get more oxygen into your body. This is good for your lungs because the more oxygen that you get to your muscles, the more energy you can achieve with any form of exercise. It’s pretty obvious that you’re going to breathe heavily in the cold, because your body has to work harder to keep your temperature.

Cold Runs Don’t Have to Be Cold

The right gear empowers you to embrace the winter. With some basics and a little effort you can dig out some proper winter running gear with adequate layering to keep you warm when it’s time to go out for a run.

Dressing properly is paramount: winter running in hats; gloves; winter running pants; winter running jackets; winter running shoes; gloves; winter running coats; winter running coats; and winter running neck gaiters

But winter gear is just a start. You need to make a decision about when to run and when not to run. When the sun is out, that means the days on your running calendar where you won’t be running will be at a minimum. When the sun is out and it’s above a certain temperature, you are good to go.

You may need to buy a thermometer to have a better idea of the temperature you are going to face outside. It can be tricky to set a temperature threshold when running outside. But if you use the following guidelines as a general idea to help you decide when to run, you will be prepared.

Cold Runs Can Combat SAD

Many runners embrace the winter months, when they are free from the stress of racing or competing.

But for some runners, the colder months are an entirely miserable experience, made worse by the winter spirits known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, that stifle motivation.

Many of us who don’t live in or regularly visit cold climates fear the onset of winter as our motivation to run trails, compete, and chase summer days wanes.

But we forget that cold runs under a dazzling blue sky can reset our perspective and help us appreciate the season.

Winter is hard work. It’s backbreaking labor. It’s about getting your body moving, challenging it with new challenges, and knocking down the bulk that has accumulated with the onset of warmer weather.

Long runs during the winter flourish because of a liberating realization that you’ve found a holy grail of sorts. You have discovered how to transform your listless, bedraggled frame into a powerhouse of possibility.

This is what keeps us going.

Cold Runs Make Warmer Runs Look Good

Winter is the worst season for running, right? Wrong. It’s actually the best!

As the days begin to dip below freezing, many runners begin to turn their backs on the sport they love most. But a little investment of time and money can help you to embrace winter so that you can get the most out of it.

That’s why I believe it’s important to drive home one very important fact: The benefits of running in the cold far outweigh the costs.

In reality, many runners actually burn more calories in the winter than they do in the summer.

It’s all thanks to the “cold thermogenesis process,” or CT, which is a natural bodily thermlogical response to the cold.

When a person is exposed to a cold environment, their core temperature drops, reactively causing the body to shiver and increase heat production. When the body generates extra heat in an effort to warm itself up, this is where calories are burned.

The CT response is also a result of the fact that you need to work harder when your body is exposed to the cold, which adds an additional cardiovascular component to your session.

Cold Runs Can Be Some of Your Most Serene Runs

I’m not a big fan of the cold. In fact, I’m a wimp. I’ve learned to embrace the cold because I started running outside in the winter and that’s how I fell in love with running.

One of the reasons why winter is regarded as a difficult time to run is that it’s so cold. It’s harder to get motivated to run when flesh is freezing off.

But the cold, which is directly proportional to the impact on your body, also means that the cooling effects of running are gradual. If you slowly start running at 6 minutes a mile, your body will adjust and slowly gain heat, and you’ll keep on running for a long time!

Another interesting aspect of cold running is that it gives you a serious reason and an excuse to layer up or dress in crazy (also crazy looking) outfits. My standard winter running outfit consists of a woolly hat, a neckwarmer, fingerless gloves with wool liners, a thick fleece, yoga pants, a long sleeve top and a jacket. On super cold days, I have been known to layer up to four or five times.