In any weather conditions, your focus will be on maintaining proper form and purposeful breathing rhythms. However, there are a few things to considerations when temperatures drop. Here are a few tips to prepare your body, know what to watch for during your run, and how to cool down afterward.
Before Your Run
Make sure you are layering clothing appropriately to stay warm. A general rule of thumb is to dress for 20 degrees warmer than forecasted since you will heat up as your body moves. Studies suggest that you wear a base layer, a long sleeve shirt, and a jacket or vest. If it is below 30, the recommendation is to add another base layer. A hat and gloves are key to keeping your extremities warm as well.
It is important to warm up your body before jumping straight into a run. Dynamic movements, such as windmilling your arms, jumping jacks, or squats, help get your blood flowing and loosen your joints. Joints often feel especially stiff in the cold. I recommend starting with a short, five- to 10-minute walk or a slow jog.
During Your Run
As your body adjusts to the cold, remember that your first few runs may be slower than what you’re used to. You want to focus on having proper form. Keep your shoulders relaxed and let your arms swing forward, not sideways. Plant your feet steadily and keep your chest upright, not hunched over. Slow your pace if your lungs feel tight, and return to a walk or take shorter strides if your breathing becomes strained.
Due to the cold, your body may not register thirst as it does in the heat. Be sure to hydrate and fuel your body, especially if you are going on a longer run.
After Your Run
Consider doing a five-minute cool down, like a slow jog or walk to bring your heart rate back to normal. If you’re ending the run at your house, change out of your damp clothes right away. If you’re returning to your car or someplace else after the run, consider bringing a change of dry, warm clothes to swap into, so you’re not traveling home in a wet T-shirt and sweaty hat. Remember to hydrate—warm fluids like tea can be nice afterward, as well as plenty of water—and do some light stretching.
We hope you keep these cold-weather tips in mind to enjoy your exercise and stay safe this season!
By: Briana Patton, PT, DPT, Clinic Director at Society Hill