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What does cold weather do to your run?

Cold Weather Running

Cold Weather RunningBy: Melissa Farrell

Just because it doesn’t normally snow in Las Vegas, doesn’t mean the cold will not have an effect on your run. I have succumb to the stumpy leg feeling, or frozen-nose.  Temperatures can drop below freezing and can have an impact on your speed, recovery, and overall performance.  When temps do drop, it can take a toll on your run.  Freezing temperatures can slow your pace by 1-2%.  There are a few reasons this can occur:

  • Reduced muscle contraction: In colder temperatures your muscles are not able to expand as much as they would in warmer temps.  The nervous system is slower to send signals to your muscles, thereby resulting in slower muscle movement.
  • Changes in your energy used: Colder weather can lead your body to use a higher amount of energy to perform and to keep your body temperature up.  The body will use more carbohydrates for its energy source, with less reliance on fats.  Runners who already need carbohydrates to perform, will need to increase their intake in order to be able to sustain their level of performance in freezing temperatures.
  • Increased lactate production: When running in an anaerobic state (when your primary source of energy is carbohydrates), the by product of breaking down these carbohydrates is lactic acid, which can build up in your muscles.  Since colder weather promotes faster carbohydrate consumption, the lactic acid can build up in your muscles faster than your body can process it.  This can slow one’s pace and cause fatigue.

I’m from back East, I can attest to the fact that Las Vegas weather has nothing on the ice & snow we used to deal with.  That being said, I’m pretty sure I’ve turned into a big wuss and could not HANG with runners in Connecticut!  Now I complain when it dips below 50 degrees!  It has taken a couple of winters to figure out the proper attire for certain temps.  50’s: Long sleeves will do.  40’s: Might need to add a hat & gloves for this run!  30’s: Oh my gosh this is going to require pants and a some warm courage.  20’s: Well, this run has got to get done and I sure am NOT spending 2 hours on the treadmill! Layer up baby!

It is imperative to keep your body from becoming too cold and utilizing your energy stores needed to run, for temperature regulation.  Some easy things you can do is wear a hat & gloves during your run.  Not only will it keep the heat in better, but these are easy things to strip off as you get further into your run.  Hydration is another important thing to be aware of.  When your body is dehydrated, it is much tougher to regulate body temperature and keep you in a state where your runs will not suffer.  Colder weather makes it tougher to gauge when and how much you should drink, so a good rule of thumb is about 4-6 oz for every 20 minutes.  If you can keep your water from freezing in your hand, then carrying a small bottle wouldn’t hurt.  Then again, if you can always run near an aid station, you’re golden!

Winter can drive a lot of runners indoors, but for those of us who prefer the feeling of running outdoors it is important to be aware of what needs to be done to keep your performance from suffering.  Don’t let the weather beat you, bundle up and get ‘er done!

Stay warm my friends 🙂
P.S. This picture was taken a week ago here in Vegas….
yeah right, I’m not THAT crazy!  Happy running!

Melissa Farrell
Running Coach, Las Vegas Runners
www.LasVegasRunners.com

Melissa Farrell - Running Coach