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Top Tips for Running in the Cold

As marathon entries for next year become available and training can begin, it’s a challenging time with winter round the corner. We’ve put together our top tips to motivate your training through autumn.

 

1. Running Gear

As the temperature drops, heading out of the door in the right kit can be the difference between a good run and just wanting it to be over. This doesn’t have to be your full winter gear but wearing multiple breathable layers will be more effective to keep you warm and can be shed as needed.

It is often advised to dress for the second mile of a run not the first, as body temperature will rise during the session. You should be slightly chilly as the run starts, if you’re warm stood still then you’re going to be too hot when moving.

Light it up. Depending where or when you run the light might not be on your side. A reflective jacket and head-torch should be staples in any running wardrobe. It might not seem necessary as you set out but being safe on a run should be a priority through the autumn/winter.

 

2. Hydration

Sweat loss still occurs in cold conditions and running in the cold can reduce our thirst response. The combination of these two factors, plus the negative effects of dehydration on performance, makes hydration a key consideration.

Always start running in a hydrated state, this can be achieved through pre-hydration with 500-1000 ml of Hydro in the hours leading up to a run. The goal during a run would be to take in sufficient fluids to prevent greater than 2-3% body mass loss through sweat loss (1). Post-run aim to replace 150% of fluid lost (1), weight yourself before and after a run, for each 1 kg lost drink 1.5 L of fluid in the hours following.

 

3. Energy

The importance of carbohydrate becomes even more apparent in cold conditions (2). Ensuring you fuel right for each session can both support the demands of training and facilitate the desired training response post session. Your high-intensity sessions will be carbohydrate dependent, meaning that you need carbohydrate in the working muscle to use as energy. Whereas easy miles and recovery runs can be fueled using our own body fat stores.

When it comes to weekend long runs you may be working at a lower intensity and for a shorter duration than marathon training, try to take on 30-60 g carbohydrate per hour (1) during these sessions. This will support run performance and provide an additional opportunity to practice fueling while running, training the gut ahead of spring marathon season.

 

4. Vitamins and Minerals

It is well known that there is an inflammatory response to exercise and prolonged, heavy training can cause immunosuppression (3). In addition to hitting your 5-a-day, 200 mg of vitamin C can contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system after exercise.

Fewer hours of daylight, training in the dark and treadmill sessions indoors can all contribute to reduced sun exposure, potentially resulting in vitamin D deficiencies. Vitamin D contributes to the maintenance of normal bones and muscle function, supports in the absorption and utilization of calcium and supports the normal functioning of the immune system. It is recommended that an athlete supplements with up to 5000 IU vitamin D3 per day throughout the winter months (4).

 

5. Planning

Start your run into the wind where possible and finish with the wind at your back. When sweaty, running into the wind can increase cold expose and stress. Be smart with your route planning, run a small loop in a well-lit area, going past your house multiple times. Meaning you can drop cloths off at home as you go or shorten a run if the weather really closes in.

Alter your training to make the most out of the winter phase, using a mixture of outdoor running and treadmill sessions. Progression runs are great to warm up and build into a run outside; whereas, treadmill runs will have more purpose if used as your interval or hill sessions. Plan out each training week and enter a spring race. Having a number of small checkpoints and an event in the diary can help motivate you to put the runners on.

 

References:

  1. Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 48(3), 543-568.
  2. Galloway, S. D., & Maughan, R. J. (1997). Effects of ambient temperature on the capacity to perform prolonged cycle exercise in man. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 29(9), 1240-1249.
  3. Gleeson, M. (2007). Immune function in sport and exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 103(2), .693-699.
  4. Close, G. L., Russell, J., Cobley, J. N., Owens, D. J., Wilson, G., Gregson, W., … & Morton, J. P. (2013). Assessment of vitamin D concentration in non-supplemented professional athletes and healthy adults during the winter months in the UK: implications for skeletal muscle function. Journal of Sports Sciences, 31(4), 344-353.
Ben Samuels
Written By

Ben Samuels

Ben is a Performance Nutritionist at Science in Sport