As we head into the shorter days this time of the year, we also face the colder workout temps. One of the most important things to consider is a proper warm up for running in the cold. I have two strategies I’ll discuss here and different combinations of setting those up for a productive run in the colder weather.
An indoor bicycle trainer is a great tool to use in order to warm up the running muscles pre-run. Even an easy bike session of 30 minutes will warm up the leg muscles, heart and lungs, so they are functioning properly for an outdoor run. If you want to add some intensity to your bike session, and who doesn’t, here are a few of my favorite workouts, pre-run.
The second option can be used if you don’t have access to your bike and bike trainer, are away from home on a trip or just want to skip cycling before running.
Either of these examples will help you get warmed up for a run in the cold. Warming up properly is the key to not pulling any muscles, but most importantly, you need to make sure your skin is warmed up before you head outdoors. Your skin is the biggest organism in your body and if it needs to be warmed up, you’ll feel pretty lethargic as blood won’t be sent to your working muscles, but rather to your cold skin, that’s attempting to heat up.
One quick note about running in the cold: It’s been my experience that doing any type of drill, speed or interval work in the cold is counter productive. Running with multiple layers on doesn’t allow for natural run form. I would recommend that if the temps are below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, refrain from running anything harder than a tempo effort. Save the faster workouts for the warmer days or for the treadmill, where the conditions are a bit more predictable.
Mike Ricci, USAT Coach of the Year, is the owner and founder of the D3 Multisport coaching group, through which he coaches all levels of athletes from beginner to elite. Mike is also the former head coach of the National Collegiate Champion CU Triathlon Team, and guided them to 4 consecutive collegiate National Championship titles from 2010-2013. Mike has written training plans for Team USA several times, is a USAT Level III Elite coach, and has helped many athletes to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona. Learn more about D3 and Mike.