How the Cold Effects Your Run


We are in the middle of the winter season. For some people that means plummeting temperatures below 0 degrees, between 15-30 degrees, or maybe you are a southerner like me and yesterday it was 70 degrees but the day before it was “cold” at 45 degrees.

When you set off to log in some miles on a cold day you obviously layer up making sure that the clothing you are wearing wicks away moisture to reduce the likelihood of your sweat causing you to develop the chills. It is also important to cover your extremities (especially those hands and feet). Blood flow is not as prominent to these areas because they are the furthest from the heart. Hence the reason why many people suffer from colds hands and feet. So, you put on your mittens and warmer socks and a scarf! For those running in temps below 30 degrees its important to breathe through a scarf. This way the air you take in to your lungs is not so cold that is causes your throat to burn. And let’s just get this out in the open now, YOUR LUNGS CANNOT FREEZE IN THE COLD WHILE RUNNING. This has been debunked numerous times by physicians and researchers.

Continuing on, if you are someone who doesn’t warm up easy, most of your heat is lost through your head, so instead of wearing ear warmers try wearing a hat instead.

Here are a few facts that we know occur when you are running in cold weather:

  • it is easier to run in the cold compared to the heat
  • your body relies on carbs more than fats for energy
  • your lactate production is higher for a given intensity meaning you are going into oxygen debt to stay at a certain pace
  • your muscle contractions are less powerful
  • dehydration is more likely (you are cold and tend to not drink as much because you are not sweating and hot)
  • cold temperatures significantly reduce the shock absorption in running shoes (if you have lower extremity injuries be careful!-the constant pounding could irritate old and new injuries)


Your performance may also be hindered due to your body trying to maintain its core temperature. This is why you shiver. It is your body’s way to try and keep itself warm. This is why it is more important to properly warm up before taking off on your run in the winter. Your muscles need to get an increase of blood flow to help warm up. Allow 5-10 minutes to properly prepare your body to run in colder temps! Once you get going even though you will warm up! You may not be able to hold a faster pace but you can certainly get in good milage. If there is any kind of snow or precipitation on the ground it is important to wear water resistant socks and/or sneakers, and if you have any exposed skin put vaseline on to reduce the risk of wind burn or blisters.

Either way I think it is safe to say besides the need to warm the body up before running it is completely safe to run in the cold, just layer up and stay hydrated!


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