Welcome to Winter. 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.Thus far winter has been pretty kind compared to epic snowfalls last year, but with the shorter days and colder nights it’s often harder to get outdoors. If your morning or evening run just can’t be done outside, consider a short walk at lunch.
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!
Here are just a few of the reasons you need to exercise outdoors this winter (at least sometimes, we know I love my treadmill!).
When you have an injury, what do you put on it? Ice! We know that a drop in temperature can actually speed muscle recovery by reducing inflammation, turns out this theory seems to apply to outdoor exercises as well based on a study in The Atlantic.
Take advantage of this recovery, by still doing your warm up the right way! 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.
Faster Paces with Less Effort
Minus any tricky footing, most 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!
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
Your body is going to expend 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! Make though that 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!
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!
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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