Welcome to running in cold weather. All your months spent complaining about the intense heat of summer, are now quickly being replaced with woes of wind, ice and cold.
Since we know running is mental, let’s reframe winter running in to the perfect time to exercise outdoors.
All right perfect, might be a stretch, but here are some surprising reasons to get your run on outside this winter and it’s more than for great base building.
Cold Weather Running Benefits
Thus far winter has been hard core here in Denver, starting with 3 snowfalls of 10 inches in October and then 16 in November. If your morning or evening run just can’t be done outside, consider a short walk at lunch for the mental benefits.
Is it good to run in the winter?
HECK YES. The running in winter benefits are numerous!
According to the American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science & Technology, as little as five minutes of exercise outside in winter can provide you with all the health benefits I’m about to share!
You 100% know that I LOVE using my treadmill as part of training year round. But if you’re avoiding the cold weather running all the time, it turns out you could be short changing your training. Of course there is the mental side of getting yourself out there when it’s uncomfortable, but there are also some other benefits you might not realize come with braving the elements.
Winter running does NOT NEED to be miserable. I’ve gone through my favorite winter running gear, especially winter running jackets and guarantee that spending a little there is going to help you enjoy these runs a whole lot more.
Winter Running Means Faster Recovery
We know that putting ice on an injury is NO LONGER the ideal scenario because it slows healing, but when it comes to your workout you might just be creating less inflammation during a cold weather run and thus speeding up your post workout recovery.
Take advantage of this recovery, by still doing your warm up the right way! When it comes to warming up for a run in cold weather, my personal favorite tip is to warm up inside. I walk for a half mile before every run, so in the winter when that’s going to be awful I either walk on a treadmill when available or I do jumping jacks, burpees and dynamic moves to get the blood flowing so I can start the run ASAP.
Running in Cold Weather Means Faster Paces with Less Effort
Minus any tricky footing, most distance race speed records are set in the colder weather.
According to an extremely in depth study, the best race performances appear to happen around 40 degrees and for every 5 degree rise in temperature, performance drops by 2.7 seconds per mile. This was based on the top athletes, so it’s likely higher on the rest of us.
Not only might you feel it’s easier to run faster during the winter, but it could be the reason for so many spring PR‘s. It turns out that the shivering, the searing lungs, all that is training your body to use oxygen more efficiently!
Winter Running Boosts Your Immune System
Researchers Rachel and Steven Kaplan found that being in nature resulted in a “restorative experience”. It offers a means of getting away from stressful situations, while green spaces with natural light and shadows can also put in you in a reflective mood making your more reflective and open to options to resolve your situation!
A few other awesome study results:
- Women who spent 6 hours in the woods over the course of two days had an increase in white blood cells, hello improved immunity (Tokyo’s Nippo Medical School)
- Nature provides a break from the stimulus of our daily lives, improving focus (Psychological Science)
- Walking in nature improves positive feelings and reduces levels of depression (University of Michigan)
Vitamin D for Mood and Energy
You need it, the sun provides it…you gotta get outside to absorb it. Per the above health perks of nature, one reason many believe it’s so good for our mood is Vitamin D.
A surprising number of people in the US are deficient, which can cause weight gain, moodiness, lowered immune system and inflammation. All things that are going to slow our great running!
Enhanced Calorie Burn from Winter Workouts
Do you burn more calories when you run in the cold? YES!!
If running for weight loss is a goal, then let winter give you an extra boost!
Your body expends more energy attempting to raise your core temperature, which results in a higher calorie burn than an equal workout indoors. Additionally, though I hate to say it winter weather is also often accompanied by wind, which again requires more effort and can thus increase the burn.
“If you are making athletic-level effort — cycling hard, running at a training level — you are burning 10 to 40 percent more calories in the cold than you would in more temperate temperatures,” according to Jo Zimmerman at the University of Maryland.
Another surprising finding is that brown fat is activated in the cold, this is the good fat..the kind that burns off the fat you don’t want covering your hard earned muscles!
Remember this higher calorie burn means you could run through your glycogen faster and need fuel sooner.
Seriously if that’s not winter workout motivation after months of being surrounded by delicious homemade meals with friends and family…well then I’ve only got one left!
Magical Silence of Winter Running
Last but not least, there’s something magical about being out in the quiet of an early morning winter run or even an afternoon run! We’re surrounding by tweeting phones and dinging emails, shutting all of that off and having a moment just to enjoy the silence is rejuvenating on many levels.
The benefits of exercising in the winter are so obvious, but I’ll be honest I still need the reminder when I look at the temps and start to think about all the necessary layers.
I’m very lucky that in the winter I can push my runs a bit until the sun comes out, which mentally makes me believe it’s warmer!
Otherwise, I’m no stranger to doing speed workouts or long runs on the treadmill with a smile because darn it, I’m still running!
More Winter Running Tips
How often do you get outside in the winter?
Need a little more help? Checkout this Winter Maintenance Plan for runners >>
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