I’m happy to be the first to admit that Winter is definitely not the most enjoyable season for running enthusiasts, but with the right mindset and approach, running in the cold can be very enjoyable and rewarding.
Although many of us may prefer to stay cozy inside, cold weather running has its benefits, including burning more calories, building mental toughness, and even boosting the immune system. It may also be necessary if you’re working through marathon training for a Spring marathon and have to get those miles in, whatever the weather!
In this article, I will dive into the benefits of cold weather running and provide some tips that can help you make the most of your winter running experience plus the essential gear that will make the cold more bearable.
5 Benefits of Running In Cold Weather
Running in cold weather may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it can have some impressive benefits for runners who are willing to brave the chill. Here are five of the most important benefits of running in cold weather that can help you stay motivated to keep running through the winter.
1. Burn more calories
When you run in cold weather, your body has to work harder to maintain its core temperature. This increased effort can lead to a higher metabolic rate, which means you’ll burn more calories during your run.
This can be a great benefit for runners who are trying to lose weight or maintain their weight during the colder months.
2. Strengthen your heart and lungs
Running in winter conditions can be more challenging than running in warmer temperatures, which means it can be a great way to boost your aerobic capacity and strengthen your cardiovascular system.
3. Boost your mood and improve mental health
Chilly conditions can also be a great way to boost your mood, learn more about that in my guide to ice baths for runners. Exercise is known to release endorphins, which are natural mood-boosters. Running in the cold can also provide a refreshing change of scenery and a sense of accomplishment, which can help reduce stress and improve your overall sense of well-being.
4. May boost your immune system
One of the biggest benefits of running in the cold is that it can help boost your immune system. When you run in the cold, your cardiovascular system has to work harder to keep your core body temperature stable.
This increased effort can help improve the circulation of white blood cells and antibodies, which are crucial for fighting off infections and illnesses.
5. Build mental toughness
Finally, running in the cold can be a great way to build mental toughness. Running in colder temperatures can be uncomfortable and challenging, but pushing through those discomforts, however, can help build resilience and mental toughness. This can be a great benefit for anyone who is looking to improve their performance or mental resilience.
Running in cold weather has some great benefits that can help you stay motivated and healthy throughout the chillier months.
With the right clothing and preparation, you may find that you actually enjoy running in the cold! Keep reading to learn more about the essential cold-weather running gear.
Have you noticed other benefits that you would like to share? We would love to hear them in the comments below!!
At what temperature is it too cold to run outside, and is running in winter safe?
Winter is here, and as a runner, you may be wondering if it’s too cold outside to exercise. While the colder weather may seem daunting, with the proper preparation and the right gear, running on snow and ice, or just in the cold air can be safe, fun, and even invigorating!
So, what temperature is too cold to run outside and what else do you need to know about running in cold weather?
Firstly, it’s important to note that the ideal temperature for running can vary depending on a variety of factors, including your personal preferences, fitness level, and what you wear while running.
However, as a general rule of thumb, if the temperature falls below 0°C (around 30 degrees Fahrenheit), it’s best to take precautions and consider running indoors on a treadmill or rescheduling your run for a milder day. Check the weather forecast before you start running to be safe.
That being said, if you are determined to brave the adverse weather, there are a few things you can do to make running in cold conditions more enjoyable.
For starters, make sure to wear running clothes that are appropriate for the colder weather. This means dressing in layers, wearing a winter running hat, warm running gloves, and even investing in a good headlamp if you plan on running in the dark due to the shorter winter days.
It’s also important to warm up properly before you start your run, as cold weather can increase the risk of injury. Consider doing some dynamic stretches or light exercises indoors before you head out to get your muscles warmed up.
Another key tip for running in winter is to stay hydrated. While you may not feel as thirsty as you do in warmer weather, it’s important to drink enough water before, during, and after your run to avoid dehydration because you still sweat, even when it’s cold.
Lastly, be mindful of your surroundings and take extra precautions to ensure your safety when running in winter.
In summary, running in cold temps can be safe and enjoyable with the proper preparation and the right winter running gear. Don’t let the colder weather hold you back from your fitness goals – embrace the frigid temperatures and continue to exercise your way to good health.
Tips for staying safe when running in cold temperatures
My first tip is that when running in cold temperatures, it’s important to wear clothing that will keep you warm and dry.
Dress in layers, with a moisture-wicking base layer, a warm middle layer, and a wind-resistant outer layer. You should also wear a hat and gloves to help keep your extremities warm. Avoid cotton clothing as it can trap moisture and make you feel colder.
My next tip is to stay visible, with the sun setting earlier in the winter months, it’s important to make sure you’re visible to drivers and other runners when running in dark, foggy or low-light conditions.
Wear reflective clothing, a headlamp, or carry a flashlight to help make yourself more visible. Avoid wearing dark clothing and stick to well-lit paths and roads. Here are some more tips for running in the dark to help you stay safe.
My final tip is to be mindful of the wind chill. Wind chill can make the temperature feel much chillier than it actually is.
Check the wind chill index in your favorite weather app before you head out and adjust your clothing accordingly.
Remember, it’s better to overdress and remove layers as you warm up than to underdress and risk hypothermia or frostbite.
By following these simple tips, you can help ensure your safety when running in cold temperatures. Remember to always listen to your body and adjust your run accordingly if you start to feel too cold or uncomfortable.
5 Tips to make running in the cold more enjoyable
Running in the cold weather can be a daunting task, but with the right preparation and mindset, it can actually be a fun and enjoyable experience!
Here are 5 cold weather running tips to make your cold-weather run more enjoyable:
1. Dress appropriately
Wearing the right clothing is key to staying warm and comfortable during your winter run. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your skin, then add a warm middle layer, and finish with a wind-resistant outer layer.
Don’t forget to wear a hat, gloves, and a scarf or face mask to protect your extremities from the cold. Investing in a good pair of cold-weather waterproof running shoes can also help keep your feet warm and dry on a cold day.
2. Warm up properly
Frigid temperatures can increase the risk of injury, so it’s important to warm up properly before heading out the door. Spend 5-10 minutes doing some dynamic stretching or light exercises indoors to get your muscles warmed up before you start your run.
3. Plan your route
Plan your route ahead of time to make sure you’re running in a safe and enjoyable environment. Look for well-lit paths or roads and avoid areas that are prone to ice or snow. If possible, choose a route that’s sheltered from the wind to help keep you warm.
4. Embrace the weather
Instead of dreading the cold, try to embrace it and make it part of your running experience. The crisp air and winter scenery can be invigorating, and running in the cold can actually burn more calories than running in warmer weather.
5. Stay dry
Wet clothes can lead to chills and even frostbite in extremely cold weather. Make sure to wear moisture-wicking clothing and avoid cotton, which traps moisture.
If it’s snowing or raining, consider wearing a waterproof running jacket or hat to help keep you dry.
By following these tips, you can make your cold weather runs more enjoyable and keep yourself safe and comfortable.
So next time the temperature drops, don’t be afraid to bundle up and hit the road (or trails) for a nippy jog.
Essential cold weather running gear
“There’s no such thing as bad weather; only inappropriate weather”. I love that quotation from Sir Ranulph Fiennes because it’s so true!
If you enjoy jogging and want to continue doing so during the winter, it’s essential to invest in some quality winter clothing and accessories and a brave mindset to go with it.
We have previously talked in more depth about the best cold weather running gear on Trail & Kale, where we recommend gear based on our in-depth product reviews, so I’ll just stick to listing the key essential gear here but feel free to read that post next to learn more about our favorite products:
- Gloves – During lower temperatures, your hands and feet are particularly susceptible to the cold and can possibly develop frostbite. If needed, wear running gloves or mittens to keep your extremities warm.
- Winter running hat – Make sure to add a technical running hat or warming beanie to your essential items, preferably one that is lightweight and provides ear coverage. Additionally, it’s always a wise decision to select a material that can absorb moisture.
- Rain jacket or windbreaker – Whether you choose to wear a waterproof running jacket or just a windbreaker that blocks chilly wind will depend on whether precipitation is in the forecast – if it’s not, opt for a windbreaker as it will be lighter, and more packable should you need to take it off.
- Alpaca/Merino wool base layer – Wool or performance fabrics are a great choice when selecting long-sleeve shirts to use as a base layer for body heat retention. Avoid cotton due to its tendency to become and remain damp in close proximity to your skin.
- Socks – Opt for running-specific socks that have moisture-wicking properties to keep your feet dry and warm – avoid cotton.
- Running shoes – Ensure that the running shoes (or trail running shoes) that you wear are a proper fit for your feet. Consider thicker socks in the winter, and choose shoes that allow for them. It’s important that the outsole on your shoes have enough tread to prevent falling on slippery wet, snowy, or icy surfaces while running or trail running.
- Running tights or pants – Certain runners prefer wearing winter running tights In extremely frigid areas – they also have other benefits beyond just keeping your legs warm.
If you’re going for a run in the wet, have a plan to quickly get warm afterward, including a dry change of clothes, socks and shoes, as well as getting that stinky wet running gear clean and dry, and drying your shoes quickly.
Wondering where to run in winter? Road running vs. trail running
When winter comes, most runners are faced with the dilemma of where to jog during the less-than-desirable season. Both road running and trail running have their advantages and disadvantages, so it really depends on what kind of runner you are and the environment in which you live.
We have lived all over the world, and when we used to live in Bend, Oregon it could sometimes be a real struggle to find the best roads and trails to run on in the winter months.
Road running offers smoother surfaces and is more accessible, especially in urban areas but they do tend to ice over in extremely cold weather, and sometimes undetectable black ice can be present, causing a read slip danger for even the best running shoe outsoles.
Running on the sidewalk / pavement with reflective gear during winter is a relatively safe option, and is essential for runners who are training for a winter race.
Trail running, however, offers a more adventurous experience, with more uneven surfaces and hills to conquer. While trail running is ideal for those who love the great outdoors, it can be a little more dangerous during the winter season due to icy trails and unpredictable weather conditions.
Ultimately, the choice between road and trail running during the winter season depends on your personal preference and the conditions. I personally love to do both!
Running in the cold weather can offer numerous benefits for your physical and mental health, as well as help you build your endurance and increase your calorie burn.
With the right preparation and mindset, you can make your chilly runs more enjoyable and keep yourself safe and comfortable at the same time. Remember to dress appropriately, warm up properly, plan your route, embrace the weather, and stay dry.
We’d love to hear about your experience running in the cold weather! Leave a comment below with your favorite cold-weather running tips or your most memorable brisk run.