If you're wondering about cold weather running or its benefits, you have come to the right place! We all know that running is a good source of exercise and a great way to get outdoors and get some endorphins pumping, but did you know that the weather you run in can bring some positive new aspects to your running routine? While running in a more temperate climate may be more comfortable, there has been an increase in scientific evidence suggesting that running in cold weather has specific health benefits.
Running in colder temperatures helps change your body composition, directly improving your health. The human body has two main types of fat: brown fat and white fat. White fat, which makes up most of the fat in our bodies, stores energy, and brown fat breaks down blood sugars in colder temperatures to warm the body. White fat typically leads to those extra pounds around the middle, while brown fat is healthier in normal amounts, and can even improve your metabolism and lower blood sugar levels. Running, and many other exercises can help turn white fats into healthier brown fats. Running in cold weather increases this chemical transformation's effectiveness and can help burn calories! There is additional evidence that running in cold weather has benefits for you. A study done on professional athletes showed that they displayed a higher level of performance while running at temperatures around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
In addition to direct physical health benefits, running in the winter months can help you get a leg up on your summer training, allowing you to reach your body goals sooner. Getting into good running habits before summer approaches is always a nice bonus.
Last but certainly not least are the emotional and psychological benefits. Winter can be a difficult time of year for many people and shorter daylight hours can result in seasonal depression. Staying healthy during the winter season not only improves your physical health but also improves your mental health since staying active helps us feel better physically and mentally. Going for a run during this time helps combat those seasonal blues you might be feeling, and it sure beats being stuck inside all day long. It is easy to fall into a slump during the winter season, and getting out and taking time to run is a great way to feel good and clear the mind.
How to practice safety while running in the cold
As we can see, there are so many benefits of running during cold weather, so let's talk about how to do it safely. If you aren't being safe, it can cause more harm than good. We should look at our apparel to start us off on the right foot. You will want to start with a base layer that hugs the body but doesn't restrict your movement. Next, you will want to add a top layer; however, you will want to underdress for the weather. A good rule of thumb for this is to dress like it will be 20 degrees warmer. If it's 45, dress for 65. The reason is that while it may be cold outside, your body will still heat up, and you don't want to get too hot.
We all know good running gear is important, and good running shoes with plenty of traction are critical for winter running. Depending on the area and how cold it is, ice can become an issue, and you don't want to turn your morning run into a day at the ice rink. Make sure your shoes are set for the journey and can handle icy conditions. Almost more important are your socks! Here at FitSok, we know how important it is to have a pair of good wool socks for running and keeping your feet dry during these winter runs.
Now that you're dressed and ready, you will want to do a thorough warmup inside, this step can help prevent injuries and stiff muscles, and you will want to raise your body temperature a little bit before jumping into action. A good fifteen-minute warmup will help set you up for a successful winter run! While running in the cold weather is safe for you to do, there is such a thing as too cold when it comes to running. While everyone has their own tolerances and preferences, anything below freezing should be treated with extreme caution, and running below -18 degrees Fahrenheit is not recommended.
Nutrition and running during the winter
Before we take off into our run, we must prepare our bodies the best way we can, and this brings us to pre-running food. We must fuel our bodies properly before we go for our runs. Nutrition plays a huge role when it comes to exercise. About 30-60 minutes before your run is a good time to eat your snack. It provides your body with quick fuel, so you will be ready for your run! What should this snack look like? Fruit is always a great start, like an apple, orange, a portion of berries, or a banana. A small yogurt cup is a great choice, and we also recommend a low-fat granola bar or energy/protein bar, toast with almond butter, or peanut butter, as these are great sources of protein!
Hydration is critical to staying healthy and having a good run, especially during these cold winter temperatures. Now, you don't want to chug water before heading out as this can make you feel heavy and bloated, but you will want to make sure you are hydrating leading up to it. A good way to make sure you stay hydrated during your run is to make sure you have plenty of electrolytes. You can get a boost of these through sports drinks, packets you can add to your water bottles, or coconut water.
Building up your run time in the cold weather
Like anything, this could take some practice and time to get used to. So when you are starting to run during colder weather, gradually build your run time up, so you get used to the lower temperatures. Start small and build your way up; this goes for time, distance, and the duration of your run. This could mean starting with a quarter-mile or half-mile distance, running for 3 minutes and walking for 2, and then building up from there.
As we can see, there are so many good advantages and benefits to running while it is cold outside, so now that you know all the great things about running in the winter and how to do it safely, you can enjoy all the benefits that it has to offer, so be sure to bundle up, and enjoy the run!