If you’re dealing with the cold of winter now, it can be hard to get the motivation to carry on with your usual exercise routine. This is especially the case if you enjoy a good run, as dark days and wet weather are not great for runners.
However, one of the things that can really impact your running in winter is the cold. Lower temperatures affect your body differently compared to when it’s hot, which means the cold can affect your run too.
Understanding how the cold can change the way you run and how your body reacts to exercise can help you ensure you avoid injury and still get the most out of exercise. Here’s what you need to know about running in winter:
Different energy source
To start with, your body stops relying on fats for energy as much, instead making use of carbohydrates. This is because your body wants to store fat to keep itself warm when temperatures drop.
You need to take this into account when it comes to your diet, as well as pre and post-run snacks. Rather than eating fats for energy, eat more complex carbohydrates to help you get the most out of your run and avoid putting weight on during the winter season.
Greater oxygen debt
Running in the cold means that it is harder to produce energy when compared to running when it’s warmer. It is harder to maintain pace and to run for as long as you normally would and you can feel out of breath much quicker.
Trying to maintain your energy triggers a greater lactic acid production as you develop a bigger oxygen debt faster. The more intense your run becomes the greater the debt, which can trigger cramps and fatigue.
This is why it is important to take it easier when running in the cold and to stop if you feel too tired or start to ache.
Muscles contractions are weaker
Cold weather also means your muscle contractions are weaker, so you need to put more effort into your run than you normally would – which is linked to the increase in lactic acid. This puts you at greater risk of pulling or tearing a muscle during your run as there is a lot more strain being put on them.
It is always important to warm up properly before running but it is vital in the winter to further reduce your chances of injury. You should also remember that you won’t get the same results when running in the cold so ease into it and don’t push yourself too hard.
Higher metabolic rate
Some researchers suggest that the cold weather forces our metabolic rates to increase as our bodies are always trying to stay warm. Things like shivering use energy that would otherwise be put toward exercise, meaning you have less energy to spare, which could impact your performance.
Natural responses to weather can always impact your running ability and results, so you need to pay attention to your body and realize when you shouldn’t push it too hard.