What to Do Before, During and After Your Cold Weather Run
Much of running in the cold is the same as running in any weather—you’ll be focusing on your form and your breathing; hopefully you’ll be enjoying the sights and staying motivated. But there are a few unique considerations when temperatures drop. Keep these cold-weather tips in mind for how to prepare your body, what to watch out for during your run, and how to cool down and warm up your core temp afterward.
How to Warm Up for Your Run
When it’s cold out, you need to warm up your body before launching straight into a run. Prior to setting off, do some dynamic movements: Windmill your arms, do jumping jacks or squats—anything to get your blood flowing and loosen your joints, which can feel stiff in the cold. You may want to start with a short, five- to 10-minute warmup—a brisk walk or a slow jog. When you start to run, go at a conversational pace—you should be able to breathe and talk comfortably while running.
During Your Cold-Weather Run
Your first few winter runs may be slower than what you’re used to as your body is adjusting to the colder weather. Don’t plan on setting a personal record or logging your most miles ever on your first few attempts.
Like always, you want to focus on having good form. Keep your shoulders relaxed and let your arms swing forward, not sideways. Plant your feet squarely and steadily and keep your chest upright, not hunched over. Your lungs may feel tight if it’s extra cold out, but just slow your pace, return to a walk or take shorter strides if your breathing becomes strained.
You’ll also want to pay attention to where you step. Avoid slippery ice or snow. And be mindful of puddles—you don’t want soaked shoes and socks. If you’re running with a friend, you can call out to them: “Ice ahead!” (They’ll be thankful, trust us.) It’s always OK to walk if you’re crossing a challenging or slippery section of trail or sidewalk. If your hands get cold, try curling them into a ball inside your gloves, sticking them into your armpits during a break or moving your shoulders up and down to get some movement into your fingers.
Remember that, due to the cold, your body may not be registering thirst like it does when you run in the heat. You still need to hydrate and fuel your body if you’re going on a run longer than about 45 minutes.
Recovery After a Cold Run
Your body should be warmed up by the end of your run, but you may feel cold due to the weather. Still, consider doing a five-minute cooldown, like a slow jog or walk to bring your heart rate back to normal. If you’re ending the run at your house, change out of your damp clothes right away. If you’re returning to your car or someplace else after the run, consider bringing a change of dry, warm clothes to swap into, so you’re not traveling home in a wet T-shirt and sweaty hat. Remember to hydrate—warm fluids like tea can be nice afterward, as well as plenty of water—and do some light stretching.
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