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Embracing Winter: The Benefits Of Running In The Cold

As the weather gets colder and curling up by the fireplace with a good book or the TV remote starts to sound far more attractive than lacing up the shoes and going running, you might be really struggling to get your miles in.

If this sounds familiar, we wrote this article for you! We’ll discuss all the benefits of running in cold weather. While it seems like it should be a drag, it doesn’t have to be if you have a positive mental attitude!

Running during cold

Cold Runs = Good Runs

This is the mantra that you should start saying to yourself: cold runs are good runs. And if you think about it, they really are because you don’t have to worry about heat exhaustion or getting up early enough to beat the heat and humidity.

It’s much more difficult to overheat or get dehydrated during the winter because your body isn’t going into overdrive trying to cool itself down like in the summer. As a result, doesn’t need as much hydration.

This is not your excuse to forget about proper hydration. You need to make sure that you’re fueling your body no matter what the temperature outside is.

However, you likely don’t know to drink a little extra water before you start your run and you’ll be able to go longer without needing a hydration break.

Plus, you’ll be putting significantly less stress on your body as compared to running in the heat and humidity. And your runs will be more comfortable because even if you work just as hard as you would for a summer run, you’ll run faster because you aren’t under as much stress in cold weather.

Cold Runs Mean More Calories Burned

At the same time, your body will have to work harder to keep itself warm, so you’ll burn more calories. If you got into running because you wanted to lose weight, you’ll see the best progress in the winter.

As a side note, similarly, drinking ice cold water is better than water at room temperature for losing weight because your body has to work to heat the water up, burning additional calories.

If you’re someone who struggles with winter weight gain (especially if you love to eat and celebrate over the holidays with family and friends), going outside for a run in the cold can help you fend off any extra pounds that might have appeared once it got cold.

Running during cold

Cold Runs Don’t Have to Be Cold

While it is true that nobody likes to be cold, this is easily fixable with the right gear. Unlike in the summer, you can always wear more layers to warm up, but make sure that you don’t overdress as that could make you sweat more, which could make you colder.

Make sure to cover your extremities and don’t overdo it on the coats and jackets. If your head, hands, and feet are warm, there’s a good chance that your run will be pretty comfortable comparatively.

And dress for the temperature mid-run, since your body temperature is going to increase. For example, if it’s 35 degrees, dress like it’s 10-20 degrees warmer (i.e., 45 or 55 degrees). I personally run cold, so I opt for about 10 degrees warmer while one of my friends does closer to 20 degrees.

Finally, warm up inside if possible. This will get your body heated up in a warm environment before you expose to the cold and make your run more comfortable. Plus, your muscles will loosen up more.

Cold Runs Can Combat SAD

If you’re someone like me who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, getting outside into whatever sunshine there is can be a huge help. Then when you add the benefits of exercise from running (endorphins!), cold runs can mean offsetting seasonal depression.

If you find yourself down in the dumps, you might want to consider going for a run. Even a mile is enough to get yourself outside and get your body moving, and you’ll see major benefits even from 10-15 minutes of running.

Cold Runs Make Warmer Runs Look Good

As the saying goes, you want what you can’t have. There’s a good chance that in the summer, you’re dying from the heat and are looking forward to when it gets colder. And then winter comes, and you think, “That’s too cold! Give me summer runs again!”

So, while your cold runs can make your warmer runs look good and give you something to look forward to, make sure that you don’t miss the benefits of running in the cold either.

One of my favorite things to do when running is think about all the things that I’m grateful for. It’s important to think about why you’re grateful to be running outside even when the temperature is freezing.

Cold Runs Can Be Some of Your Most Serene Runs

I wanted to end on one of the greatest benefits of running in the cold—serenity. There is something so peaceful and calm about the winter when everything is quiet and you can see yourself breathing.

One of the most serene and calming things I’ve experienced has been while running in the snow. The trail was clear but snow covered the ground beside the trail and in the trees. Take a moment to soak that in because you definitely can’t get that on a summer run.

Plus, if you run during the holidays when the sun is setting, you get to see not only a beautiful sunset but also everyone’s Christmas lights turning on. It’s pretty spectacular.

Remember that running in the cold doesn’t have to suck. It is beautiful and invigorating in ways that summer runs never will be, and it’s helpful to be grateful for all the things that cold runs bring!

Rachel Basinger
The Wired Runner