Does Cold Weather Affect Performance?

As I began  my run this morning my toes were so cold I was worried in case they snapped off. (Slight exaggeration but you get my meaning?) They did soon warm up but it got me wondering about the effect running or working out in cold weather has on your performance. When I say cold I am talking just below freezing which comparatively isn’t very cold for some parts of the world but is quite cold enough for me thank you very much.

After some research I found out the following:

1) When your body temperature drops below 37′ C  your body requires more oxygen to remain at the same pace. This is because your heart pumps less blood around and it is also harder for your muscles to get the oxygen from the blood.

2)The optimum temperature for endurance runners is between 2′ and 11′.

3)According to a formula Schwarz devised, you can expect a time increase of 1.66 percent when the temperature drops to -1, and  a 3 percent increase at -6,

4) Dehydration is still a risk when running in the cold as you lose more water though respiration, you still sweat  and you feel less thirsty.

So how do you minimise these effects?

1) Keep your core temperature as high as you can, through warm ups, extra clothing etc as it is harder to regain warmth once it is lost.

2) Practice running in the cold as your body will adapt to a certain degree.

3)Wear layers so you can remove or add layers as you go. Remember that should you get injured and you end up walking you will get cold very quickly as the sweat takes away your heat – be prepared.

4) Manage expectations – if it is cold you will not be able to sprint as hard, or manage your personal best.

So what does this mean for me? Well I can pleased with myself for training in the cold and wind. I will continue to dress up warm (and carry the extra weight around). Most importantly I shall be kinder to myself when things do not go exactly to plan with my performance.

How do you cope with cold days? Do you put it off or continue anyway?

Resources and further reading:

14 thoughts on “Does Cold Weather Affect Performance?

  1. Michaela

    Really interesting post, I suspected that cold weather made it harder (it certainly feels it!) and your explanation makes perfect sense. Thanks for sharing your cold weather knowledge. X

  2. mcrafts

    I so miss my running – I used to run at lunchtime every day (mon-fri) but have a problem with my hip now that only appears when I run – so am debating what to do about it! I used to find that once you get going in the cold it isn’t so bad – I did wrap up well though & wear gloves.

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