Tips for Safe Winter Running

By Physical Therapists Sarah DoBroka and Chris Dollar

Running in the winter can be exhilarating, but it also presents unique challenges and can add a higher risk for injuries.

Even with risk, cold weather doesn't mean it's time to hang up your running shoes until spring, especially if you're training for a race like the OrthoCarolina 10k Classic or Around the Crown 10k 
Here are the most frequently asked questions we receive about cold-weather running and the answers you need from OrthoCarolina running experts and physical therapists Chris Dollar and Sarah DoBroka.


Q: Am I more likely to pull a muscle in the winter?

A: Cold weather brings a higher number of muscle pull injuries for several reasons. When people are cold, they tend to be more tense and muscles tend to be less pliable. That’s why when they start running too quickly, they are more likely to pull muscles. To prevent those types of injuries, plan for 20-25 percent more warmup during the winter.


Q: Does cold affect my speed?

A: If it's below 50 degrees your speed is actually slower and when the temperature drops even cooler, say to 32 degrees, expect a 1-2 percent increase in your pace. This means it’s better to focus on maintenance, not speed work, on cold days.


Q: What is the optimum amount of clothes to wear in cold weather?

A: In cold weather, dress for 10 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. If it’s 32 degrees outside, dress for running as if it’s 42. As you run, your core temperature rises, and you tend to get hot. 

Remember with darker days to wear proper reflective gear and bring a running buddy. The buddy is also good motivation for when it’s cold in the morning!


Q: How much hydration do I need in the cold?

A: Hydration is the same in the winter and summer. The body is working a little harder in the cold to metabolize energy and keep you warm, so whether you sweat or not or have on a few or lot of layers of clothing, hydration is the same. Hydrate as much as you would in summer.


So don’t let cold weather stop you from running this winter. Follow these tips for staying safe and get the most out of your workout.


What's Next?

- Don't forget your cross training! Check out a few of our favorite yoga poses for all the muscles that are notoriously tight for runners. 

- Start with the right shoes. An OC physical therapist brings you all the tips for choosing your new kicks. 

- Training for a race is a great way to stick with it. Sign up now for theOrthoCarolina 10k Classic or Around the Crown 10k.


Sarah DoBroka, PT, SCS, COMT, Cert DN, is a physical therapist at OrthoCarolina HuntersvilleChris Dollar, PT, DPT, OMPT is a physical therapist at OrthoCarolina Eastover. Article originally published January 2, 2016.





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