Running in the Cold of Winter: Yes it is Possible!

Temperatures drop and the night arrives earlier. Autumn and winter are seasons when the motivation of a runner is put to the test. It is often tempting to stay at home rather than going out in the cold. By being well equipped and by adapting your running training, running in the cold is quite possible 😉 Let’s see how to do it!

At what temperature is it not advisable to run?

Guillaume, one of RunMotion’s founders, lived in Boston in the United States, where the winter is very harsh. During the harshest winter, the temperature went down to -20 degrees Celsius … Without going to these extremes, the health risks are real below 5 degrees Celsius. Breathing is more complicated, and the aerobic system has more difficulty adapting.

Below -10 degrees, Guillaume regularly runs indoors on a treadmill because the risks outweigh the benefits at these temperatures.

Below 0 degrees, he would mainly go out for basic endurance runs or at least training that doesn’t exceed 80% of maximum heart rate. Priority should be given to moderate efforts and intense efforts such as short interval training should be avoided.

Ideally short fractionals (VMA sessions) are to be performed above 5 degrees. It is also based on your own feelings and state of health. People who suffer from exercise-induced asthma will have to wait until the temperature is 7 or 8 degrees Celsius before they train at high intensity.

With experience you get to know yourself, and you have to keep in mind that the benefits of training must outweigh the risks. The wind can also decrease the temperature felt and so the windchill factor must also be taken into account. If possible, it is best to run at noon when the temperatures are warmest.

What’s the suitable clothing for running in the cold?

Of course we do not run in winter in the same clothes as in the summer, your outfit must be adapted. We’d recommend a t-shirt with long sleeves, jacket, windbreaker if it is very windy and tracksuit bottoms or tights.

When the temperatures are negative, Guillaume runs with a Buff (neck warmer) as it is called in reference to the brand that popularised it. You can cover the neck, nose and mouth, to slightly warm the air and especially make it less dry, since the water vapour of you exhaling humidifies the Buff. The fabric is breathable enough to be able to breathe normally during moderate efforts.

When it’s cold, Guillaume wears a hat or headband to cover his head, where you lose the most heat. It’s convenient and easy to put in a pocket when you start to get hot – the same with gloves!

Zipped jackets are practical since you can open them when you start to get hot.

For long outings, also think about taking a drink since you also get dehydrated in winter. Having a close-fitting bottle or flask in your jacket can also keep the water at an acceptable temperature.

When the ground is frozen, be careful in turns, these are the most slippery places. Shoes with a few studs, such as trail shoes, are more suitable when the terrain is snowy.

Running Indoors to Avoid the Cold

The treadmill is an interesting running alternative. Indoor sensations are different to outside and require time to adapt. The stride is slightly modified, so at the beginning it is ideal to run at a moderate intensity to get used to it little by little.

On the treadmill you are on one sport with no wind and so theirs little air to cool you. It is therefore a good idea to use a fan to keep you cool. When you run indoors, drink regularly, a few sips every 20 minutes, because you get dehydrated faster running indoors.

It may also be an opportunity to do cross training, in order to complement your running training when you aren’t able to train outside like normal.

Running in the cold requires some adaptations, a little wisdom and a bit of motivation. However, what a pleasure it is to come home after having made an invigorating effort outside 😉

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Jamie Taylor-Caldwell14.21 5000m runner and former scholar athlete for West Texas A&M. Jamie is the UK Country Manager for RunMotion Coach