Thursday, 13 May 2010

What if it's too cold to run?

Posted by speedygeoff on Thursday, May 13, 2010 with 5 comments
Cold weather running
I laughed when I heard the weather reporter say that the Sydney minimum last night was a “very cold eleven degrees”.  If that were our minimum here in Canberra I would be running outside in T-shirt and shorts, thankful for the mild conditions.

It can be very cold here, but still, I prefer running in cold weather than in hot. It is easier to warm yourself up than it is to cool yourself down. On top of that, Canberra isn’t usually cold in the extreme, although visitors from elsewhere in Australia seem to think so. Generally, cold weather makes running easier.

What should we do when it is truly “very cold”, when the mercury drops to zero degrees Celsius or below, and when the wind chill factor comes into play? What steps can we take to protect ourselves and keep ourselves warm?

Cold weather running tips
1. Wear a series of thin layers. And close to your skin, you’ll need material that is warm and does not retain moisture.

2. I wear a beanie which covers the ears, and I wear gloves. The ears and wrists always feel the cold the most if not protected. If not too cold I don’t worry about track pants, but for extra protection I sometimes go with an extra layer of underwear.

3. Over-heating can still occur when it is cold! As you warm up through running, peel off each layer before you start sweating. Too much sweat accumulation might freeze and cause problems.

4. It may be advisable to warm-up indoors before venturing outside. You may start off inside a gym, jog in place, use exercise machines to get started (cycle, rowing, stepper, etc.). Before you start sweating, head on outside and you’ll have a reservoir of warmth to get you down the road.

5. Start your run going into the wind. This allows you to come back with the wind behind you, and if you tire or get sore and have to slow down towards the end of the run, you will be less cold.

6. If your outer garment has long sleeves it is easier to remove and tie around your waist as you heat up. Or you could consider dividing your run into two sections and ducking inside in between, where you might want to remove an outer layer or two.

7. Run where there is shelter available. Getting caught in the open in hail, freezing wind and rain, or lightning is no fun at all.

8. Remember to drink. As cold as you might think it is, you will still be sweating and you will still need to replace fluids. And also, remember to eat. You actually use up more muscle glycogen in cold weather than you do in hot weather.

9. Don’t worry about breathing in cold air. Your lungs will not freeze; just keep moving and everything will be alright!

10. I often go for a long run just before joining my training group for interval work. The trick is to have a towel and a change of clothes ready to be put on between sessions. It is so nice to have a dry comfortable running shirt, not to mention a new beanie and gloves, it makes it so much easier to start up again and run those few extra ks.

See you at Dickson tonight. 4:00pm for a long run if you wish to join me; 5:30pm for interval training under lights that are so bright they give the illusion of warmth. Bring a change of clothes or two!

Ruth and Yelena at the speedygeese dinner


  1. Beautiful ladies - wish I could have been there. I am so looking forward to catching up with you all again :)

  2. I would argue it's never too cold, but it is often too hot. Running in winter is the best :-)

  3. For afternoon runners it's never too cold in Canberra. Runners in colder climates are much tougher!

  4. Tonight's chill was actually quite pleasant. A small matter of acclimatisation. Runners do better when it's cold, I'm sure.

  5. I loved going running in the snow at temps in the negative digits (when I lived in North America). It was invigorating and made me feel really committed. It was all about the layering!