Cold Weather Running – How can this lead to Overtraining and Injury?

The temps are falling along with the paces of most runners.  There is no doubt that running in temperatures below 60 degrees makesrunning feel easier and effortless.  Times come down, resistance to fatigue is higher, your body can cool itself, and overall it seems less stressful on your body.

But wait, is it?

When the weather is hot, running feels harder.  Runners overheat, which causes elevated heart rate and therefore putting the body is a higher state of perceived effort, maybe even over Lactate Threshold at slower paces.  Humidity is another factor that inhibits easy breathing and doesn’t allow the body to cool itself as easy because sweat doesn’t evaporate as easily.  This is hard on the body internally (e.g. stress on the heart and organs) but you are actually running much slower therefore it is easier on your muscles.


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So now that it is cold, you have to be EXTRA good with long runs and easy aerobic days.  When you feel like a million bucks and you get that runners high, you have to slow yourself down and not go too hard too often.  Say for example you have a workout on Wednesday.  You pushed hard, it was 45 degrees and low humidity.  You felt awesome, you finished faster than any workout yet.  Then Thursday you go out and run medium distance and it is supposed to be aerobic, but your still on a high from that workout and your feeling great so you go hard again because its not hot, or humid and the weather is ideal for running fast.  Well, that combo right there might be too much for your muscles and tendons and that is where you need to learn to hold back after you have done the work.  Don’t run in no mans land (a pace that is too fast to be at an aerobic zone, or not fast enough to reach the right training zone).

When it is colder there are also factors that add more impact stress onto your muscles and joints.

#1 Your Shoes are harder, so the cushion is stiffer in the cold

#2 The ground is harder – believe it or not, when the cement is colder, the ground is actually harder

#3 Your muscles need to be warmed up sufficiently before the more intense contractions of fast running. It is not as easy to do that in cold and extremely cold weather, and the ambient temperature will keep lowering the skin temperature.

Be aware of your running speed when the workout is supposed to be aerobic.  Typically if you keep your effort around 65% of your V02 max (2 mile race pace) or  you can use a running calculator to plug in a recent race time where you gave 100% effort and it will give you a range of time for your aerobic long runs.  These are just a guide and a true test would be to do a test to see where you aerobic heart rate zones are.

If you find this blog helpful, we would love to hear from you!  Train Hard, Train Smart, and Think Positive!