For those avid runners, who’s passion takes them outside no matter what the conditions are, the answer is yes. So no you don’t have to succumb to the dreaded treadmill to get your mileage in. There are many benefits to running in cold weather.
Raises Your Metabolic Rate
First thing is that you burn more calories. Your body has to work harder to try and keep you warm and does this by burning fat. Through a powerful evolutionary mechanism, it converts the white fat (bad fat stored around your stomach) into brown fat or the good fat that used to heat the body.
This is extremely important because abdominal fat increases your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. So you can skip the ice bath and for a run outside. And when you start out on your run and you're shivering a little bit because you're not fully warmed up, just think to yourself that you're fat is melting away.
Get Some Natural Vitamin D
It also gives you the chance to get natural light. Places where the winters are long and hard have higher incidences of depression. Being stuck inside is not only bad for your mood, but it's also not good for your waistline. The average person puts on 5 to 10 pounds during the winter season. A little incentive to get outside and not be part of the statistic.
Increases Mental Clarity
The cold is invigorating and raises your mental sharpness because the brain thrives on fat metabolism. So during cold weather more fat is being burned to keep you warm which gives the brain the fuel it needs. The brain is 70% fat and requires fat metabolism to produce ketones for it's energy.
Boost Your Immune System
According to the CDC it lowers your risk of getting sick during the cold and flu season. And you don't have to worry about the frigid air damaging your lungs. The body heats up the air long before it ever reaches the them.
Puts You In A Better Mood
Well maybe not when you first get out there, but running releases your happy hormones called endorphins. It's a great way to decompress from the crazy holidays and get your mind right. In addition, the sense of accomplishment from doing something that is hard and that not must people are willing to do is pretty powerful. This also helps to strengthen your immunity and ward off pesky bacteria and viruses.
Most research shows that running in the cold is actually safe. Those with asthma or heart conditions or poor circulation should take precaution though. Cold air can aggravate the airways and the natural decreased blood flow to the extremities should be taken into consideration if you suffer from these conditions.
Have The Proper Gear
The keys to being able to run outside safely involve being prepared and using common sense. As long as the temperatures are above -18 degrees you're good. With that being said, you must have the proper gear. Layering is important. The underneath layers, or ones against the skin, need to be made of a wicking or Dri-fit material. Then you add the warmer additions.
Make sure your extremities are covered. The body is sending all the energy to your core which leaves the hands and feet at risk for frostbite. Gloves should be made of wool that will keep the moisture away and sock made of a synthetic blend like CoolMax.
It’s really important not to forget about your head and ears too. Any exposed skin will quickly become numb without you realizing it which increases your risk of frostbite. Luckily there's plenty of winter gear out there that are designed for runners.
Drink Enough Water
Another thing to watch out for is dehydration. It's easy to drink water when it's hot outside. But in the cold your thirst isn't as strong, so you have to watch your intake. In addition, if you run with a CamelBak make sure that your tube is insulated or your water will freeze
Check The Forecast
Finally the last and most important key is to check the weather. And not just the actual temperature but the wind chill and humidity levels also. 20 degrees is a lot colder if you also have 20 mile-an-hour winds along with it. Make sure to check the future cast. If there's a winter storm warning later in the afternoon don't count on it coming in at that time. Weather changes quickly and the last thing you want to do is be caught in something you're not prepared for.
Check The Terrain
Know what the conditions are for the surface you’re going to be running on. Slipping on ice will take you down faster than anything else. Invest in some YakTrax to give you some stability if you're going to be running where there's snow or ice.
You’ll Have An Advantage
There is an added bonus for braving those frigid temperatures during the winter. You'll be ahead of the game and trained up for the spring race season. And if that’s not what you're into then you'll just look good in your swimsuit and be ready for the pool or beach. All because you have the perseverance to run outside all year long.
So don’t be afraid to get out there and enjoy your passion. You don’t have to surrender to the mental torture of the treadmill. Just take the needed precautions, have the right gear, and use common sense. Happy cold weather running!