Running in the Winter can be, for lack of a better word, cold. And, well, intimidating. Let’s get one thing straight first: you shouldn’t be pounding pavement outside if the wind chill is below negative 18 degrees Fahrenheit, or within reason. Think about it: a storm advisory is a good indication that you should stay indoors. But, when it’s just a regular Winter day that makes you want to book your next tropical vacation, lacing up your running shoes isn’t the worst idea. In fact, it’s good for training, according to some experts we spoke to.
Roberto Mandje, head of training at New York Road Runners and former Olympic runner, told POPSUGAR, “One thing that I tell a lot of the runners I work with, whether they’re training for our TCS New York City Marathon or even some of our virtual races, is you want to head out in the conditions regardless of what they are, obviously within reason and keeping safety a priority, because it’s going to improve your training.”
Mandje explained, “It’s going to give you the physiological boost of training in those conditions, but also the psychological boost of saying, ‘I’m tough, I made it out in these conditions,’ and that’s going to translate to later on in the year when you start to do races in ideal conditions” because you’ve trained in worse before. If you’re competing in a Winter race and the weather is far from ideal, “Well, you’re acclimatized to it,” Mandje said. And, he added, someone who only ran indoors would be at risk of becoming “shell shocked.”
Alexis Colvin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon from Mount Sinai specializing in sports medicine, told POPSUGAR she seconds that claim. “I think with any training you don’t always want to do the same thing over and over again, and in the Winter it’s easy to get into this rut of going on the treadmill or just going to the gym, which may be fine depending on what your goals are. But, if you actually want to improve, you need to challenge yourself. One way to do that is to vary the terrain as well as the temperature and the environmental conditions.”
In addition, exposing yourself to cold during workouts can help you burn more energy, states The Journal of Clinical Investigation, and therefore more calories. Before we leave you to your training, it’s important to note that if you have heart problems or exercise-induced asthma, which can be triggered by cold temperatures, you should take extra precautions during the Winter. Anyone running outdoors this time of year needs to replenish with fluids and stay mindful of preventative measures like layering up and listening to your body, Dr. Colvin said. Find more tips for Winter running here. Be cautious, but don’t let temperatures fit for Queen Elsa stop you from getting in that mileage.