Running in Cold Weather: Keeping Young Athletes Safe and Warm
By: Terra Blatnik, MD
Just because the temperatures are dropping doesn’t mean outdoor running and exercising has to drop as well. Runners and other athletes will often continue to train outside through the cold winter months. It can be tempting to either stop running or switch to indoor activities instead of dealing with the cold. Athletes planning to run a race or participate in track and field in the spring should continue to run outside if possible. It is good to maintain the body’s endurance.
Here are some tips and tricks to help your dedicated young athlete:
1. Choose appropriate clothing
- Footwear is super important! You need to keep good traction on what could be some slippery terrain. You also need to keep your feet warm. Avoid shoes that have mesh as the outer layer (this is super common in most every day running shoes). This will allow snow, ice, and cold in! Try to find shoes with minimal mesh and possibly a more resistant Goretex. It is also helpful to look for moisture wicking socks.
- Pick your clothes wisely. You want clothes that will keep you warm but won’t make you overly sweaty. At the start of a run you should aim to be slightly cool because you are only going to get warmer as you start to exert energy.
- Always wear a hat and gloves. Below 30-40 degrees this should always happen!
2. Warm up before the run
- Do a quick warm-up without breaking a sweat so you don’t get cold. Go up and down stairs, jump rope, etc. This will help get your muscles going before you start.
3. Don’t worry about pace and speed
- There are a number of reasons why you can’t run as fast when it is cold. Wind, snow/ice, oxygen usage, just to name a few. Focus should be on maintaining endurance rather than going faster.
4. Adjust your routes and be safe
- Running into the wind is hard! Try doing a few minutes into the wind and then a few minutes with the wind.
- Stay close to home. It is risky getting farther away – in case you slip and fall.
- Be aware of it getting dark! It gets dark earlier and more quickly. Consider having a flashlight or headlamp in the case it gets dark earlier than expected. Reflective clothing is also helpful. Better yet, plan your runs during the day before it gets dark.
Continuing to run into the winter can be a rewarding experience and following these rules can help keep your young athlete safe. Have a happy, healthy and safe fall race!