A Non-Runner's Guide to Running in the Cold
I am not a runner by any stretch of the imagination. I’ll work out in other ways — even on the elliptical ... which is basically running.
I see people out for a morning run, a middle-of-the-day run, really any kind of run, and I am absolutely baffled. The only time you’ll see me running is for my life. What inclines a person to do such a thing for exercise? I may never understand. When the weather gets cold, I’m even more amazed at the number of people who continue to run outside.
I decided to do some research and figure out what weird genetic mutation these people have — that I clearly don’t — that enables them to run in the cold. I found, as it turns out, that there are simple measures you can take that make running in the cold a much more pleasant experience. Some seem like common sense, but I like to think I’m not the only one who missed the memo. So I’ll share those tips with you. Who knows, I may even go for a run after this!
I started my research the way any serious venture begins: Google search “How do people run in the cold?” Very legit. The first tip in every link on the first page is dressing for success a.k.a., wear layers. Seems obvious, right? If you wear shorts, you'll start your run cold and stiff. Then you stop running, and your sweat freezes, and you’re stuck mid-step until someone comes to rescue you with a block and chisel. If you bundle up too much, though, you overheat and end up looking like this:
Layers are the key to preventing such a traumatic experience. The colder the weather, the more layers you should be wearing.
As you warm up, shed a layer. But what do you do when you lose those layers? Just toss your joggers into the wind, never to be seen again? Find me a single person who looks at Nike apparel and thinks, “disposable.” Probably not. For this reason, finding a loop to run is the move this winter. That provides an opportunity to lose a layer every lap. Find a safe place to leave your belongings, like your car, and drop off whatever you peeled off in your last lap.
Wear Fitted Clothing
This will help wick the sweat from your body and circulate your body heat more effectively. Not to mention it makes you look super hardcore, like you must REALLY know what you’re doing.
I have more questions. What do you do about cold lungs? That, to me, is the most unappealing part of running in the cold. Turns out that’s a simple fix, too. Wearing a light mask over your mouth and nose blocks the wind from your face and create a buffer that gives air time to warm up a little before you breathe it in. In case you’re interested, the technical term for such a mask is a “balaclava.” Not to be confused with baklava, a flaky Mediterranean dessert that will satisfy your sweet tooth but will NOT protect your lungs from the cold.
Prep and Recover Indoors
As far as warming up goes, stretching outside or standing around at the beginning of your route are huge no-no’s. Warm up inside. Stretch out your muscles and do a few small exercises, like staircases, jumping jacks, or some light yoga — enough to get your heart rate up, but not so much that you break a sweat. This prevents your joints from stiffening in the cold at the start of your run.
At the end of a cold run, make sure you have a change of dry clothes to change into or immediate access to a hot shower. Drinking a warm beverage, like coffee or tea, helps too. Aside from the obvious desire to get ~cozy~ after being out in the cold, these measures ward off cramping and stiffness and keep your sweat from freezing you into a runner-popsicle.
Now that I’ve debunked all of my own excuses for staying inside this winter, I guess I’ll see y’all out there …
Be well, Auburn.
Photography: Jack P.