5 Tips for Running Races in Cold Weather

How to Survive Winter Running Races

Some runners choose to take the winter season off from racing, but others like to stay motivated by continuing to race through the colder months. Although many of the same cold weather running safety tips (like "don't overdress") apply to winter racing, here are a few other things to keep in mind if you're running in a chilly race.


Do a Warm-Up

Woman running on snow
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A pre-race warm-up is especially important when racing in colder weather. A good warm-up dilates your blood vessels, ensuring that your muscles are well supplied with oxygen. It also raises your muscles' temperature for optimal flexibility and efficiency. By slowly raising your heart rate, the warm-up also helps minimize stress on your heart when you start your run.


Wear Throw-Away Clothes at the Start

The worst part of about winter racing is usually when you have to strip down to your racing outfit before the race starts. Rather than wasting a lot of energy freezing at the start, try to stay as warm as possible. If you know you're going to be waiting for a while, wear an old long sleeve shirt over your race outfit for extra warmth. Rather than tying it around your waist and adding extra bulk, you can throw it out at one of the water stops once you're warmed up. Some big races even allow runners to throw away extra clothes at the start because they collect the clothes and donate them to a local charity.


Keep Your Head and Hands Warm at the Start

Even if you don't think you'll race in a hat and gloves, you should at least wear them at the start, since you'll lose a lot of heat through your head and extremities. Some runners like to use hand warmers in their gloves to keep their hands extra toasty. If you get too warm during the race, you could always take off your hat or gloves and hold them, tuck them into the back of your pants, or pass them off to one of your cheerleaders along the race course.


Don't Forget to Hydrate

You may not be as aware of your hydration needs during cold weather races as you are when it's warm. But you're still sweating, so make sure you're stopping at the water stops and drinking at least 6 ounces of fluids every 20-25 minutes.


Change Your Wet Clothes Post-Race

If you get wet from rain, snow, or sweat during a cold race, you're at an increased risk for hypothermia, a lowering of your body temperature. Bring an extra set of clothes so you can change out of your wet race outfit after the race. If you suspect hypothermia — characterized by intense shivering, loss of coordination, slurred speech, and fatigue — get emergency treatment immediately.

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