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I am not a "new" runner, but I'm not exactly a marathon runner either. I've played soccer for years and run now in college to avoid gaining weight. I typically run in warmer months and treadmill some during winter. I live in the East Tennessee area so it's semi-cold (usually anyways, lately the weather has been all over the place). I would love to hear how to begin running outside in colder weather cause I've heard it's harder to breathe in colder weather. Thanks!
Above about 45°F I make virtually no changes to how I dress, where I run, and how far/fast I go. As the temperatures drop through the 30s I start with a long-sleeved shirt, add gloves, and finally add tights. As the temperature heads south of freezing I add a second long-sleeved shirt, and if it is precipitating and/or windy, I'll add an outer shell and/or a brimmed hat.
Over the years I have found that if I gradually run at colder and colder temperatures, my lungs don't notice the cold, however, if I run indoors through much of the fall and early winter and then suddenly start training outside, I'm asking for breathing trouble.
The above said, while I don't typically have an issue breathing air as cold as 0°F (below that I wear a face mask which helps warm the inbound air), other folks start wheezing and need to use an inhaler in temperatures as warm as 40°F, so keep an eye on your breathing, get your body used to breathing colder air bit-by-bit, and you should be good to go.
In general, the key is "layers" (and I don't mean chickens). Layering is individual and takes a little trial and error but you'll find out pretty quickly how to adjust for temperature and wind. I generally wear a little more than shipo, for instance. Some people seem to be affected more by the colder air when it comes to breathing. I don't notice it myself. You may notice it less if you breathe mostly through your nose, which warms the air more than breathing through your mouth. You can wear something like a scarf, a buff, or a ski mask/balaclava to cover your mouth and nose if the cold air affects your breathing. But any covering also makes it a little harder to breath, so there is a trade-off. I will wear a ski mask in very cold conditions (~20 degrees or lower), but not for breathing, rather to keep my face warm.
I think lenslaw and shipo answered the question, how to dress and what effect the cold has on breathing is an individual thing, one size (or answer) does not fit all. Shipo's dress would not be enough for me. I'll wear shorts to run down to about 50 but will be wearing a long sleeve technical shirt by about 60. In mid 30s-40s, I usually wear long pants, and UA cold gear (or whatever other brand is similar) shirt with a high vis outer shell jacket. Colder weather will require additional layers, especially for my core.
I use walking as a dynamic warmup so that also gives my breathing a chance to adjust to the colder outside temps. To be honest, unless the temp is is in single digits (then I will run indoors on a track) my bigger concern running outdoors in the winter is the footing since sidewalks and roads are not always cleared of snow and any run is likely to encounter both bare pavement and icy spots.
Just for the record, I am 68 and not a die-hard endurance runner. During the winter crappy road conditions make it less fun to ride my road bike so I tend to do daily runs instead.
I layer for colder runs. I wear sleeves because sometimes I start to really warm up during my runs. I can roll down the sleeves to cool off. I also have mits/gloves that convert if I need to cool off. (Sometimes my hands get too warm.) I also wear thermal socks.
Layering is such a personal thing that you will have to try it out and see what works for you. It seems the only time it gets cold here in SE Texas is when it is also windy so I make sure I cover my ears and my eyes (with sunglasses). If you run at night remember to wear reflective clothing and/or lights. I wear both.
As for preparing for your run, you may want to do your warm up inside or take a hot shower before your run. I made a mistake of warming up and running outside with the first cold snap and I tore a calf muscle. Now I make sure I do jumping jacks and high knees inside the house before I venture out. That way my muscles are warmed up before I go outside.
Graduated C25K 08/09/2009
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Definitely all about layering. A warm 60F morning may only require short sleeved shirt and shorts while last Monday i even wore a Carhartt coat when it was -30F out. It takes some experimentation.
C25k completed 7/27/2012
1st 5k: Alert Road Race 6/15/2013 - 34 minutes
I agree with all the answers given so far, especially the part about it being and individual choice -- you should try some different things to see what works best for you. I wanted to answer your question because I grew up in East Tennessee, but now live in Pennsylvania. Temp here yesterday morning at 0500 was 3, with a wind chill factor of -12. Winds 10-15mph, gusting to 35. not good running conditions. I am a triathlete, and run year-round regardless of the weather -- but weather like that is beyond challenging, its dangerous. I've been making my peace with the treadmill. All that said, you want to run out side, and asked specifically about breathing. I use a runner's balaclava, which means it uses the moisture wicking material. I use it in full head mode to start, with the chin and mouth piece covering my mouth. Once I start warm up, I can pull that part down. The keyis not to dress for stepping out the door -- dress for 2-3 miles down the road. Everyone's cold when you first go out. Let me describe the rest of my gear: Head: balaclava with tobaggan/running beanie/running hat, denpeding on the temp. I can wear a regular running hat down to about 35, beanie from about 30-35, below 30 I go with the tobaggan. Once I warm up, I roll the balaclava down as a neck gaiter -- I wear the neck gaiter all winter long, and that will help your breathing I'm sure. Torso: Compression shirt down to aboou 32-35, then add a running jacket below that. We get lots of wind here in the winter, too, so I may wear it if it is windy, even if the temp is higher. I also just bought a Northface Windstopper running jacket that I'm going to start subbing for the other one. Hands: Under Armor running gloves, the skin-tight ones, down to about 35. Below that, I put a second pair of Under Armor gloves on, a little bit heavier weight, on top of the other ones. I take off the first pair at about a mile or so in, then the second pair another mile or so later, wind dependent. If it is really. stupidly cold out, I have a third, thicker pair that I wear by themselves. I try balance between keeping my hands warm and still having my fingers free to open GU packets, etc. Legs - I have only ever worn one layer on my legs -- I have CW-X compression pants. Once or twice i've tried wind pants on top of them, but didn't like them. I've run down to about 10 degrees using just what I've described, but ti does take some getting used to and some trial and error. I think the real key for you may be the balaclava -- I could not get through the winter without mine. Good luck with it!
Hey! Great question, I just did a blog post about the effects of cold weather running on your body and performance.
Hope you find this useful!
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Good luck and don't get discouraged if it takes time to adjust to training in the cold!
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