Running in sub-zero temperatures

8. December 2018

1. Dress in layers

You can also get warm very quickly when running in winter, so opt to wear layers that can be shed during training and tied around your waist. Exposed areas, such as hands and the head, should be kept warm from the outset. A warm torso and protected lumbar region are also important. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen and sunglasses in the sun and snow.

2. Start slowly

Particularly in cold weather, the following applies: only a warm muscle is capable of performing! It’s best if you boost your circulatory system and muscles by doing gymnastic exercises inside in the warmth. When you start running, take it slowly and pace yourself.

3. Preferably long than fast

Longer and not too intensive training units make the most sense. Running at a moderate tempo means your pulse remains low and the inhalation of cold air is kept within limits. When doing a long run, take food and drink with you, if need be, because running in low temperatures requires more energy in the form of carbohydrates.

4. If you do intensive units, then keep them short

When it is cold and/or there is an icy wind, you shouldn’t do any high-intensive or interval training units outside in cold weather if possible, to ensure your respiratory tract doesn’t become additionally irritated by the increased amount of icy air. If you do undertake intensive units, then keep the intensive phases short and, above all, make sure you can put on dry and warm clothes as quickly as possible.

5. Don’t aim for best times

During the winter, it makes no sense to crack your personal best times on your runs. For each type of sport there is an optimal ambient temperature: for running it lies at around 10° to 15 °C. Your performance capability is restricted in both hot and cold weather. In minus temperatures, your performance level drops around 10 percent.




6. Breathe through the nose

Inhaling icy air through an open mouth cools the respiratory tract and makes you susceptible to colds. The bronchial tubes are the most vulnerable. It is therefore more apt to breathe through the nose in cold weather: this ensures a better warming and humidifying of the respiratory air and thereby delays the cooling down of the respiratory tract. Extra care is needed when there is a combination of cold and wind (wind chill), where we subjectively feel the cold to be much worse. Nasal breathing it is much easier to maintain at low intensities; when you do rigorous training you automatically breathe through the mouth.

7. Protect your mouth if need be

At very low minus temperatures, it may be appropriate to protect the respiratory tract from drying out by wearing a scarf or raised collar in front of your mouth.

8. Drink a lot

The body particularly loses a lot of fluid through respiration in cold conditions The motto is therefore to drink a lot, even if you don’t feel that thirsty in winter. Lukewarm drinks are absorbed the fastest, whereas very cold and hot drinks burden the stomach unnecessarily. Tea is sufficient for short exertions, whereas exertions lasting longer than one hour require a drink that contains carbohydrates (around 6-8% of carbohydrates, which is normal for sports drinks). For exertions of two hours or longer, it also makes sense to add a bit of salt (bouillon, salt pretzel or a salt tablet).

9. Avoid cooling down

Your clothing is damp at the end of the training which, combined with the cold and wind, will cause your body to cool down quickly when it is at rest. You should therefore replace your wet things with dry clothes immediately after your training has finished and only then go home! And the following also applies: only start stretching once you have showered and changed!

10. Don’t train if you have the flu!

If you have a fever, athletic training is an absolute taboo – not just for one day but for as long as you have a fever! Fever is the body's response to an infection and the body therefore needs time to recover. When you have a cold, moderate physical activity is allowed, however, this should be considered more as movement and not training. A cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract that makes itself felt through a runny nose, and/or cough and sore throat, but does not entail any fever. While the flu is also an acute infection of the respiratory tract, it has the additional symptoms of a sudden high fever, pain in the joints and limbs, a sore throat, and a dry cough.

Up to minus 20 degrees is possible

How long at which temperatures?

When the temperatures are really icy, the training duration should be shortened, especially when a bitter wind is blowing. Anyone suffering from asthma or heart problems should avoid sports when the temperatures are well below freezing because the cold air places a great strain on the heart and lungs. This is how long you may train in the individual temperature ranges:
Up to freezing point: With good clothing, there are no restrictions regarding the training duration and content. Apply the layer principle.
0 to minus 10: When you do your training in doses, there are no restrictions in terms of duration. Here, you should also preferably wear several layers rather than just one thick layer in which you will suddenly end up too warm. Drink a lot when training for long time. Don’t let yourself cool down.
Minus 10 to minus 20: You should do as little intensive training as possible with a maximum duration of around one and a half hours. Warm-up indoors before you start training. Possibly protect your respiratory tract with a scarf and drink a lot. Protect your limbs, don’t let them cool down.
Minus 20 to minus 25: Only train if necessary and the training units should be predominantly shorter, lasting around 30 minutes to a maximum of 1 hour. Warm-up indoors before you start training. Make sure your respiratory tract and limbs are well protected.
Below minus 25: It’s best to give your training a break and treat yourself to a hot bath! And if you still want to do sports, then best do them indoors!