Distance running in the cold

20 mile run to Rye, New York in frigid cold

20 mile run to Rye, New York in frigid cold

Although it is not officially winter, it sure feels like it outside. With temperatures across the U.S below the freezing mark, many runners and other outdoor exercisers may lose their enthusiasm for exercising in the outdoors. The shorter days don’t help either. For a lot of people who ordinarily exercise outdoors, this means heading to the gym to stay fit for the winter.

As for me, nothing can replace outdoor exercise. I’m a distance runner, and treadmills just don’t feel “right” to me. Sure I may be a little slower when running trails since my lungs don’t function optimally in the cold, dry air, there’s snow on the ground sometimes and ice patches galore, but these should be seen as opportunities rather than obstacles. The snow can be a little difficult to run on, but it can help build stamina; icy areas can help you improve your balance. The fierce, cold winds may do all they can to force you back inside, but if you are dressed in enough layers and psychologically ready, you will have the last laugh.

And that is really the key to running outdoors. Dress properly, wear enough layers – but not too many. This may require experimenting, but you don’t want to wear so many that you weigh yourself down or feel uncomfortable, and you also don’t want to wear so little that you freeze your butt off after running for 5 minutes. Don’t forget to drink water or fluids before or after a run, since you will be sweating a lot under your clothing even if you don’t notice it. Don’t forget to wear a hat, especially if it goes below the freezing point!

For me, just 3 layers is enough if it is in the 20s, though maybe you will need more. A regular cotton undershirt, long-sleeved running shirt, heavy sweat shirt, sweat pants and a hat helped me stay warm during yesterday’s 20 mile(32 km) run. Oh and some heavy gloves. Yesterday’s high temperature was about 27 F or -2.7(it was actually much colder when I started the run). I dressed similarly when I ran as it was snowing a few days ago, though I only ran for 13.49 miles.

If you are new to running in snow, or in icy conditions, take it easy the first few times. Be very careful. If it is really icy, you may want to seriously consider buying something for your sneakers to help improve traction. I don’t have anything like this, but I may get something eventually.

Don’t worry if you are running slower than usual because of the cold air. This happens to virtually everyone, and by spring you should find yourself running as fast as last spring or faster.

The cold is not a good excuse to stop outdoor exercise!

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7 responses to “Distance running in the cold

  1. Wow, you sound like Superman to me….

  2. You seem happily determined and driven. Two qualities/attributes that many would like to feel… and possess. 🙂

  3. You are awesome! I’m ok with winter running as long as is not windy. That’s when I’m done!

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