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Location: Okemos, MI US 48864
Running in the Cold

Running in the Cold

  • Dress in layers. The key to winter training is layering, especially with your upper body. Layers trap body heat and allow sweat to move through the layers of clothing. The moisture is wicked away from your first layer to your outer layers, and then evaporates. Start with a thin layer of synthetic material such as polypropylene, or wool, which wick sweat from your body. Stay away from cotton because it holds the moisture and will keep you wet. An outer layer of nylon or Gore-Tex will help protect you against wind and precipitation. If it's really cold out, you'll need a middle layer, such as polar fleece, for added insulation.
  • Avoid overdressing. You're going to warm up once you get moving, so you should feel a little bit chilly when you start your run/walk. A good rule of thumb: dress as if it's 20 degrees warmer outside than it really is.
  • Pay attention to temperature and wind chill. If the wind is strong, it penetrates your clothing and removes the insulation layer of warm air around you. Your movement also creates wind chill because it increases air movement past your body. If the temperature drops below zero or the wind chill is below minus 20, hit the treadmill or walk at the mall, instead of heading outdoors.
  • Run/walk into the wind first. If you head out into the wind, it will be at your back at the end of your workout, when you're sweaty and could catch a chill.
  • Protect your hands and feet. As much as 30 percent of your body heat escapes through your hands and feet. On mild days, wear gloves that wick moisture away. Mittens are a better choice on colder days because your fingers will share their body heat. You can also tuck disposable heat packets into your mittens. Add a wicking sock liner under a warm polar fleece or wool sock, but make sure you have enough room in your shoes to accommodate the thicker socks.
  • Wear a hat. About 40 percent of your body heat is lost through your head. Wearing a hat will help prevent heat loss, so your circulatory system will have more heat to distribute to the rest of the body. When it's really cold, wear a face mask or a scarf over your mouth to warm the air you breathe and protect your face.
  • Watch for frostbite. On really cold days, make sure to monitor your fingers, toes, ears, and nose. They may feel numb at first, but they should warm up a few minutes into your run/walk. If you notice a patch of hard, pale, cold skin, you may have frostbite. Get out of the cold immediately and slowly warm the affected area. If numbness continues, seek emergency care.
  • Don't stay in wet clothes. If you get wet from rain, snow, or sweat in cold temperatures, you're at an increased risk for hypothermia, a lowering of your body temperature. If you're wet, change your clothes and get to warm shelter as quickly as possible. If you suspect hypothermia --- characterized by intense shivering, loss of coordination, slurred speech, and fatigue --- get emergency treatment immediately.
  • Stay hydrated. Despite the cold weather, you'll still heat up and lose fluids through sweat. Cold air also has a drying effect, which can increase the risk of dehydration. Make sure you drink water or a sports drink before, during, and after your training.
  • Take it easy when it's frigid. You're at greater risk for a pulled muscle when running in the cold, so warm up slowly and take it easy on very cold days. Save your tough workouts for milder days or indoors.

*Editor's note: consider buying a pair of YakTrax to minimize the slipping and sliding!

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