Running in Cold Weather

Submitted by Allan on February 21, 2013
A run in cold weather is a lot easier than running in hot weather, since lower ambient temperature exerts less of heat stress on the body. The heat and humidity of summer can be extremely taxing on the body. This is one of the main reasons why most marathons are held in the cooler months.


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Many people face tremendous mental resistance to the idea of running in the cold. Breathing is difficult. The ground may be slippery and the air too cold for many people.

However, it is just a question of getting used to it. Once your body has adapted, it will become much easier. Breathing in the cold air will not hurt as much after a few days of acclimatization and the right apparel can help keep the chill out.

Breathing technique is very important while running in winter. The tendency, especially for beginners, will be to breathe through the mouth. Breathing through the mouth delivers greater amounts of oxygen to the lungs. While it may be okay to do so in summer, in winter it may actually be bad for your lungs. This is because cold air enters directly into the throat and lungs and can result in a sore throat and inflamed bronchial tubes. Breathing in through the nose ensures that the air has warmed up a little before it hits those delicate bronchial passages. You can get used to breathing in through your nose with a little practice.

Those with asthma are always a bit more concerned about the effect that cold weather will have on their condition. Many people with asthma do run during the winter. If you do suffer from asthma, consider taking a dose of your inhaler prior to your run and keep the inhaler with you at all times. Should you have any problems, avoid running altogether.

One misconception that many people have is that running during the winter months burns more calories. This is simply not true. Unless you are jogging through snow or mud, the number of calories burned during a winter run will not be significantly different from those burned during a summer run.

Here are some additional tips on running during the winter months that are usually not mentioned in any guides to running:


A simple rule, while preparing for a run in the winter months, is to layer up. When you start your run you will feel cold. As you warm up, you can peel off the individual layers of apparel. Your gloves can be stowed in your jacket pocket which can then be tied around your waist. In this manner you will remain comfortable throughout your run.

Here is a suggested winter running get up:

  • Underwear and shorts
  • Full-length thermals
  • Wind pants
  • T – shirt
  • Long-sleeved T – shirt
  • Sweater
  • Face mask
  • Beanie scarf

Wear 1 to 3 pairs of woolen socks as required. Your shoes should also be suited to the terrain you are running through.

Proper Hydration

Keeping yourself hydrated during your run is essential. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can forgo water since you are sweating less. While you may need less water during a winter run, it is still essential.


There are many benefits to be had from running in winter. These include:

  • Enhancing your mental toughness
  • Helps to keep you in shape for summer
  • Can elevate your mood if you are prone to seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Running through snow can help you burn more calories


There are some disadvantages to running in the cold. They include:

  • Getting those layers off as you warm up can prove to be cumbersome
  • An increased risk of hypothermia
  • Increased risk of frostbite

Always check the weather conditions before setting off on your run. In extreme weather it may be wiser to stay indoors or work out on the treadmill.

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