by Nashville personal trainer Dan DeFigio
Protect Your Extremities
Most of your body heat is lost through your head and hands, so gloves and hat can be a must in the cold. Choose compressible gloves and hats so you can shove them into a pocket or your waistband if you get too hot while running. For your feet, choose wool running socks, (such as SmartWool PhD Running socks) — they’re thin, breathable, and warm even when wet.
Pick Your Route Carefully
Stick to a fairly short, well-lit loop in the cold. Winter brings slick and icy conditions, plus earlier sunsets, which can hamper your ability to see and be seen while you run. At night, wear plenty of reflective gear, and always run against traffic. If possible, run into the wind on your way out, and with the wind on the way home. Running into the wind when you’re sweaty will subject you to much greater stress and cold exposure.
Do a Good Warm-Up
Take a few extra minutes to get your joints and muscles loose. Do your warm-up indoors, if possible, and focus on dynamic stretches like leg swings and walking toe touches. Stretching is not a warmup!
Think of Your Lungs
Cold, dry conditions make the respiratory system work harder, and can damage the lungs if you’re not careful. To protect yourself, shorten your runs when the temperature is 20 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, and cover your mouth with a balaclava or ski mask.
The cold makes you feel less thirsty, but your body is still sweating so you need to diligently replace fluids, just as you would in the heat. Winter months tend to be drier, and runners may be less aware of the amount of sweating that’s actually occurring.