This Is The Most Effective Way To Up Your Running Game In The Winter
As outdoor temperatures drop below freezing and snow flurries become the norm, our motivation to trek through wintry morning runs becomes a distant memory of the past. But are we really ready to trade in our wandering trails for the treadmill? And how much will that shift impact our running game?
We spoke with Dr. Armin Tehrany, a top New York City orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Manhattan Orthopedic Care, to find out exactly how outdoor winter running and indoor treadmill running compare when it comes to our physical fitness. And we won’t lie — we were pretty surprised by what he had to say.
First, unless you have a relevant health issue like seasonal asthma, there really is no additional risk to running outside when it’s really cold. Obviously, icy and snowy paths present more slipping and falling opportunities, but beyond that, your body can handle it. It’s more a matter of how uncomfortable you’re willing to feel as you adapt to the frigid temperatures.
“The body and muscles need to adapt to the colder weather,” Dr. Tehrany said. “The reason why a lot of people don’t want to run in the cold is because they feel too tight. In order for them to transition, the best thing to do is to dress extra warmly. That means thermal underwear, that means hats, that means gloves. And then, as the body adapts to the colder temperatures over time, they can run with less layers and items of clothing.”
So don’t swear off those long outdoor runs because of a little chill in the air. You’ll still get to benefit from the rush of endorphins that comes from being outside in the elements, breathing fresh air and observing real surroundings.
With that said, it’s also not a good idea to ditch treadmill running altogether, either. While running outdoors is certainly the most natural form, treadmill running is definitely the safer option when the weather gets dicey. It also creates different kinds of stress on your body that make a difference when it comes to the diversity (and thus effectiveness) of your workouts.
“When people ask me if it’s better to run indoors or outside, I tell them it’s their preference,” Dr. Tehrany explained. “And, either way, they should probably mix it up and try something different. When your body is always used to the same routine, you may not get the same health benefits. But when your body is facing a little bit of a change, it has to work harder, which can keep you even more fit. That’s the positive of changing between running styles. Your body doesn’t know what’s coming next, and you end up getting a better workout.”
We know that’s probably not the answer you wanted to hear, but hey, at least everyone has to leave their comfort zone to some degree to get all the fitness gains, right? Plus, there are plenty of ways to go about it.
For example, keep your longer runs outdoors to enjoy the scenic, wintry views and then log your interval workouts on the treadmill where you can easily map your varying distances and speeds as necessary. You can also play to your mood. Feeling adventurous? Go create a new, wandering running path in your neighborhood. Feeling blegh? Set up Netflix on your phone and get jogging while you watch from the comfort (too much?) of your warm and toasty gym.
But no matter what, remember that the key isn’t always to pick the path of least resistance. A little discomfort is what pushes our bodies to perfom better, so don’t rob yourself of those opportunities just because they seem less appealing. Outdoor runners need the treadmill, and treadmill runners need the pavement. It’s just up to you how you choose to integrate both into your routine.
And don’t forget the importance of proper footwear and extra stretching time! Dr. Tehrany explained that you need quality sneakers and socks to protect your feet in any running scenario. And the colder it is, the tighter our muscles become, so take an additional five minutes to stretch before and after your running workouts to prevent injuries all winter long.