Cold Weather Marathon Training Tips

January 5, 2018


By: Dr. Joshua Blomgren, Primary Care Sports Medicine Physician, Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, and Aid Station Medical Lead for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Get ahead of the competition by training in the cold – period. Most rivals in cold weather are doing nothing!

And, as a runner, you’re in luck. Running is well-suited to the cold because it generates significant body heat, countering the discomfort of lower air temperatures. And, the cold air prevents overheating. 

See it as an opportunity

View cold weather running as an opportunity to change your training patterns. Let the temperature and road conditions dictate your pace and mileage. Slow down when roads are icy and slippery and speed up when the path is paved and dry.

Take your workout indoors and use the cold temperatures as a way to focus on cross-training. Focusing on running alone can create muscular imbalances, especially in the hips.  Use the time indoors to focus on hip and core strengthening to build a strong base for when temperatures warm. 


Warm up indoors

Just like a tight rubber band, your muscles and ligaments are more at risk of injury in the cold (think Achilles rupture, hamstring pull, calf strain). When the body heats up, it loosens these tissues. In severely cold temps, it is wise to warm up indoors before heading outside. Once warmed up, start out slowly and gradually build up speed.

Monitor your heart rate

Temperatures below 40 degrees make your heart work harder and consequently, your heart rate and blood pressure increase. Your heart rate rises not only to keep your core temperature at 98.6 degrees, but also to guarantee blood flow to your brain, muscles and internal organs. Your heart must pump harder to circulate blood through its constricted blood vessels. So, using a heart rate monitor can alert you to any abnormalities to your heart rate.

Use common sense

  • Stay off wooded trails; stick to paved roads. Avoid paths that are icy or snow packed.
  • Run mid-day when temperatures are highest.
  • Dress in layers consisting of ‘dry-fit’ fabrics that move moisture away from your body.

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