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What is a good way to run during the winter in cold countries with snow? How can you maintain your training without having to run on a treadmill, which I don't enjoy? Should I look for other shoes and clothes that are more fitted for cold weather or should I try to find other things to do for a few months?

I've heard that it is bad for you and that you will more easily get sick if you run when it's cold due to the cold air in your lungs, is that true at all? If its in any way true, how late in the autumn should you stop running outside and how early in the spring should you continue running outside again? Somewhere around 0 degrees Celcius of before that, when it's warmer?

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closed as off topic by edmastermind29 Sep 11 '12 at 21:17

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With your legs :P –  Dynamic Feb 11 '12 at 22:01

3 Answers 3

up vote 16 down vote accepted

How funny, I just got back from a run through 0c/32f weather. I quite dislike treadmills as well.

First, I think you should definitely invest in a nice set of colder-weather running apparel. Long pants, gloves, a hat or headband, and at least a long-sleeve technical shirt. A technical shirt will keep your body dry, important for keeping warm in the cold. A running jacket would be nice too, but I find I don't need one until about 20f/-7c, above that it makes me sweat too much and (as I mentioned above) that's not good for winter running. If it's not snowing hard or particularly icy, you should be fine in your regular shoes.

You can also mix up your regimen a bit. Unless you're an elite runner who needs to keep improving, just concentrate on getting enough exercise to maintain your fitness. Shift more towards cross-training, in particular things you can do inside, like a stationary bike or swimming. Find an indoor track, if you can, and do intervals or other speed work. Lift two, maybe three times a week (you should be at least once a week anyway; and remember, you're toning, not bodybuilding). I'd say you should get four runs in each week, which can include one speed day. If there happens to be inclement weather on a day you were going to do a run outside, you can either swap with an indoor day (once, you shouldn't go three days in a row without running), or suck it up and use a treadmill.

The bit about getting sick in the cold is an old wive's tale. Cold weather doesn't put viruses or bacteria in your lungs. In fact, running (as long as you don't chronically overexert yourself) generally improves your immune system.

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@Kevin summarised it nicely, I just can add something from my own experience. The lowest temperature I ran for training was -10C. For temperatures around 0C, I use long, stretchy pants, underpants and simple running t-shirt, coupled with wind-breaker jacket and pants, which are very thin and impregnable. These are enough, since when you run, you generate a lot of heat.

For lower temperatures, I add gloves, and a hat and technical shirt with long-sleeves. If you run more than 1 hour under -10C, you start losing heat in the legs, but I never searched for solutions, because my training runs rarely exceed 1 hour.

This winter we had temperatures as low as -25C. Then definitely balaclava is needed, since if you try to run and breath through the nose, you soon start to choke (because the nose cannot warm the air fast enough), and breathing through the mouth may invite cold. On this question though I am not sure. Under cold weather I tried to minimise breathing through mouth just in case.

Concerning footwear, if there is no ice or snow, usual footwear suffices. I ran under -10C with simple running socks and usual shoes with no problems. If there is ice or snow, then special shoes should be used, or you can put screws in your old running shoes.

Finally another advice which I found useful. You must feel cold when you start to run. If you do not feel cold, you are overdressed. This is true, although it is annoying when I wait for my Garmin to catch GPS signal.

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+1 for low temperature suggestions. –  garik Feb 12 '12 at 13:15
    
I agree completely. Except for the part about not breathing through the mouth. I have never had any problems with breathing through the mouth summer or winter. On the other hand, you're not the first I heard saying this, so... do you have any references for materials about this? –  Tonny Madsen Feb 12 '12 at 14:31
    
No, I do not. Hence I wrote accordingly, i.e. only cited my own experience. I did not any effects when running under -10C, but I think you might get sore throat in lower temperatures. This question can be answered by skiers. In skiing or biathlon competitions nobody wears balaclavas, but on the other hand a lot of professional skiers have asthma problems. –  mpiktas Feb 13 '12 at 8:24
    
I can't give any kind of scientific evidence, just my own experience. If I try to run outside (or do anything outside, for that matter) in temps below about 35F, I do find that it hurts to breathe. I wear a separate hat and neck gaiter, rather than a balaclava, because it's easier to move the gaiter down around your neck if you start to get too warm. –  EmmyS Feb 24 '12 at 21:25
    
I specifically checked, no problems for me with breathing through mouth in temperatures up to -10C. I do not breathe with full mouth open though. Probably this is very individual thing. –  mpiktas Feb 25 '12 at 5:41

I agree with both other posters and will add that I have run down to -30C, and there it is not much different. A layer or two of running material shirts, under a wind breaker. At that cold a temperature, while sweat is bad, it cannot be avoided and you might as well try to trap the heat inside.

I always wear a running hat, but in these temps I would change from one of the vented types to a more solid material, and a head band to cover my ears. It also helps I keep a full beard in the winter to save exposing my face.

(I also biked in those temps for many years, which is a different set of clothes.)

If you are out at seriously cold temperatures, like -20C and colder (By the way, inhale deeply, if your nose mucous does not freeze, it is warmer than -15C, easy rough test) make sure to watch exposed skin, (vaseline on top can make a big difference).

If you get warm and sweaty, whatever you do, do not stop for too long! My plan while biking around for work at -30C was if I ever got a flat. Lock the sucker up to wherever is available, find a store and go inside till a family member can come pick me up. The two times I totaled my bike while riding in the winter, I basically walked it back to warm territory (ironically work both times was closest) and the walking kept me warm.

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+1 for "do not stop for too long". –  Rafael Cichocki Jun 25 '13 at 16:25

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