When the temperatures drop into the teens, running outside can be uncomfortable. Many runners opt to use a treadmill when the mercury sinks that low. Being a runner in New England I try to avoid the treadmill whenever possible. I really don't enjoy it. When I saw that the weather forecast for Sunday morning was calling for temps in the low teens, I had to decide if I would hit the roads or head to the gym for my 12 mile run. It wasn't really a hard decision. I layered up and set out into the cold and wind. I knew I might be uncomfortable and sluggish, but I'll gladly slog along wearing multiple layers of running clothes than face 12 miles on the treadmill.
I know not all runners agree with me. I can see how the treadmill has its benefits. It is nice to run in shorts midwinter. You can set your pace, put in your ear buds, and zone out. There's no doubt that you'll work up a sweat. However, I think there are a few benefits to running in cold weather that you can't get from running on the treadmill.
-The added weight of your clothing makes you stronger come spring. Even if you have the top of the line technical gear, you will feel bulky. Your head, neck and maybe face will be covered to block the cold. All of this means more effort to move. When you take away the layers on that first warm day in March you'll feel free and fast!
-Running in the elements toughens you up. If you race in New England, you need to be prepared for all types of conditions on race day, so you should train in them too. Even if you don't race, running through the cold and the wind gives you natural resistance. Every step you take is just a little bit harder than usual. You work harder, so you get stronger. You can't get that on the treadmill without a wind tunnel.
So I managed to run my 12 miles and enjoy them (mostly)! I have had some miserable runs in the cold, but over the years I've figured out what works for me with cold weather running. Here are a few tips for running in the cold.
1) Wear thin layers that wick away moisture. For your outermost layer try something that will break the wind and hold in heat. Don't overdress. Use a short run as a way to figure what cold weather running outfit works for you. In general, it's okay to feel cold when you start out. You should start to feel warm within 10 to 15 minutes.
2) Cover up, head to toe. Any exposed skin is going to allow heat to drain from your body. If you're wearing a hat, make sure it goes down low enough to cover your ears fully. Face masks can be helpful, but a neck warmer is a great alternative. You can pull it up over your nose as needed.
3) My toes are always cold, but I discovered one trick that helps. Before I put on my running socks I put a light coating of vaseline on my toes. It helps hold in heat. Just don't overdo it or your feet will feel slippery.
4) Run with a friend or a group. The conversation makes the run go by faster. And you have someone to complain to about how cold it is.
Running in the northeast is always a challenge during the winter months. Although there may be times you will be forced to run indoors due to the weather don't totally eliminate running outdoors. With the proper dress running outside in cold weather can actually be more comfortable than running in the heat of summer. We still have a few months of winter left so if you haven't ran outside in awhile get out there! I guarantee your next run will go by a lot faster than on the dreadmill...(sorry treadmill).