During the winter and cooler days of early spring, local gyms tend to be packed with people while it’s rare to see someone running around the neighborhood. However, so long as conditions are reasonable (as in, not dangerous due to ice or visibility), there’s nothing wrong with running outside during the colder months. In fact, there are plenty of reasons why it rocks!
There are many great reasons to lace up and hit the pavement this winter, even on cold, rainy days. Here are 8 of them…
You Won’t Overheat
One of the most visible reasons to run in cooler weather is also one of the most obvious reasons to avoid running during the hottest days of the summer: you won’t get so hot that your health is in danger. Running during a heat wave is particularly dangerous, as it can raise our body temperature to unsafe levels and deplete our fluid levels to the point where we become seriously dehydrated.
Rarely is this a problem on colder days. On most days you’ll be able to run five, 10 or 15-miles without getting hot, potentially allowing you to go further and build your endurance than you’d be able to do during the summer or in a warmer climate. For those just starting to get into running, that could make the winter the best season to begin a new running routine.
Run to Boost Mood and Fitness
The rates of seasonal affective disorder (or SAD) are understandably much higher for those living in the colder parts of the country. Only worsening the situation is the tendency for many people to eat more and exercise less, leading them to gain weight and, potentially, feel less confident in their physical appearance.
Running all year long can play a central role in helping us burn calories and fat, giving us the ability to keep the weight off and keep us feeling good about the way we look. Having this feeling of confidence can give us an advantage in other parts of our lives, from building our personal relationships to enhancing how people at work see us.
Build Mental Strength
For the average runner, there’s almost nothing more difficult that getting up on a freezing cold and dark morning and hitting the pavement for a run. Let’s face it: it takes a whole lot of mental strength and discipline to do this on a regular basis, meaning that cold weather running can play an important role in building your mental power and helping you reach the next level.
For many runners, this is absolutely crucial because mental strength is such a vital part of the running experience. Often, runners face two challenges when running, whether it’s a road race or just another weekend jog: their bodies and their minds. Developing the discipline it takes to hit the road on a cold mornings can help you build the endurance it takes to become a better runner overall.
For those who live in parts of the country still battling frigid temperatures, the winter season can feel long for many different reasons. At the top of that list: depression, which can be caused by less exposure to the sun and vitamin D.
Running, like many other types of physical exercise, can play an important role in the fight against seasonal depression, otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). That’s because physical activity releases endorphins that make us feel good and boost our mood, helping us fight off the winter blues even during the season’s darkest days. Additionally, cold weather running can help us get exposure to the sun during its limited availability.
Prepare for Summer
There are two periods during the year when people resolve to lose weight and get in shape: the first, and most obvious, is New Year’s Day. The second is less visible but still rather prominent: the period right before the weather starts to turn warm. So, why do people resolve to get in shape just as winter turns to spring? Put simply, it’s because they want to look good when the heat rises and the clothes come off. As spring gives to summer people ditch their sweaters and long pants for t-shirts, shorts and swimwear, and that means exposing our bodies more.
That’s where running in every season can help. By helping you burn calories and fat and stay confident in your appearance, you can feel good shedding winter clothing as the temperatures rise. That means that, while everyone else scrambles to lose weight, you can simply continue the routine you’ve been following all winter long.
Burn Additional Calories
Cold weather running can pose special challenges compared to running during the milder spring, summer, or fall. There are several reasons for this: the cold air can make your lungs work harder, thereby requiring more of your heart.
In the end, this can help you burn significantly more calories than you might burn during a mild spring, summer or fall run. In combination with a healthy diet, this could help you shed pounds faster and get in shape just in time for spring road races and summer trips to the beach.
Build Tolerance for Chilly Conditions
One of the worst parts of the cold, wintery weather is having to brave the frigid temperatures whenever heading outside. This can make simply walking to work or between the cab and club really uncomfortable and may even lead us to avoid going outside entirely. For people who want to maintain a healthy body weight and stay in shape, that’s a huge problem.
That’s where running outside on a regular basis can help. By getting outside and braving the cold, you’ll get more used to the frigid temperatures. That could mean you’ll be less reserved about heading outside during the cold winter months, thereby giving you the capability, at least, to get more exercise, burn more calories, and stay in shape.
Gear up for the Big Race
Winter results in many heading inside to gyms, where they hope to maintain their endurance on treadmills, elliptical machines, cycling machines, and other devices designed to help sustain or improve cardiovascular strength.
But the reality is that there are significant differences between using machines for your workout and actually running outside. For competitive runners, this can be a significant problem, as running inside does nothing to prepare them for many of the conditions that accompany an outdoor race. That’s why it’s a good idea to continue running outside during the winter months so long as it’s safe: when the big race comes around in late spring, you’ll be ready for it.