Embrace the Chill: A Guide to Thriving in Cold Weather Running

A Runner’s Guide to Surviving Cold Weather Running 

Training for the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon is in full swing, and as we tackle the coldest months of the year, our team of physical therapy and running experts has curated essential tips for winter running, including insights on hydration.

When is it too cold to run?

Whether you’re a winter warrior or a cold-averse sprinter, deciphering the perfect running weather is an art. Jeff Swartz, Mercy Health physical therapist and running expert, advises us to factor in the windchill. Jeff says, “It’s not just about the temperature. There’s a big difference between running on a day that’s 10 degrees and sunny with little wind and a day that’s 10 degrees and overcast with 20 mph winds.”

During the chilly winter months, you should expect to run at a slower pace because your body is prioritizing blood flow to your organs. It’s important to remember that there are some health concerns to consider when cold weather running including the potential for hypothermia and frostbite.

Jeff advises weighing the benefits of running outside against the potential health risks. If the risks outweigh the benefits, it’s advisable to complete your workout indoors while still working toward your goals.

Bundle Up

Mastering the art of layering is your secret weapon. Jeff advises, “Avoid cotton and opt for moisture-wicking fabric to keep sweat away from your skin. Ensure your layers are easily removable and can be tied around your waist as your body temperature rises.”

Hats and gloves are essential and moisture-wicking hats keep your head dry. Glove choices are personal, but the goal is the same for everyone: keep those fingers and hands cozy.

Shine Bright, Run Safe

With shortened daylight hours, chances are you will find yourself running in the dark. Prioritize visibility by wearing bright colors or reflective gear. Jeff advises to enhance safety by wearing a headlamp. “Not only does this alert drivers to your presence but it also helps navigate potential obstacles like bumps on the sidewalk or running path,” Jeff says.

Running on Slippery Surfaces

As temperatures dip, so does the likelihood of slippery surfaces and the potential for injury. Jeff’s advice is to use winter to build your base running at an easy pace. If you’re training for a winter or spring race, make sure you’re doing so safely by running on days where outdoor conditions are good or hitting the treadmill or indoor running path.

Hydration Matters in the Cold

Despite the colder temperatures, staying hydrated is crucial. Cold air is not your hydration ally as it tends to be dry. Runners can underestimate their fluid needs in these conditions. “Drink water before, during, and after your run to maintain optimal performance. Consider bringing a handheld water bottle or using a hydration vest for longer runs,” Jeff suggests.

Adjust Your Mindset

Recognize that winter running is more challenging as your body works harder to regulate temperature. Jeff emphasizes that setting personal records during the winter might be challenging, it’s an opportunity to maintain fitness and build a solid base. “Embrace the winter as a time to run easier, allowing your body to recuperate for an even stronger spring.”
Stay safe during your winter runs, especially if you’re preparing for the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon. If you’ve been training but have yet to sign up, there is still time to register.

Mercy Health’s orthopedic and sports medicine team of physicians and running medicine specialists are here to help! They are available to assist you during your training and proudly provide medical aid to runners on-site during marathon race weekend.

Explore the comprehensive orthopedic and sports medicine services offered by Mercy Health ensure a healthy and successful winter running season.