By Dr. Matthew T. Simmons
Because humans are warm weather mammals, it’s critical that we keep our bodies warm, especially when running in the cold.
Endurance runners, with their lean build, are even more vulnerable to cold and wet environments. Also important, and often overlooked, is doing regular sessions of stretching and strengthening exercises. Warming up prior to heading out as well as maintaining your carbohydrates and fluid intake levels in cold weather will yield a better and often safer performance.
During colder temperatures, your muscles don’t contract with the same intensity as they do during warmer temperatures. Your body burns through more carbohydrates and your body becomes less efficient in using oxygen as fuel in the cold weather.
As the thermometer drops, your body has to work harder to maintain your core temperature, meaning more energy is being expended. Your body temperature drops and your blood pressure rises as your blood flow is constricted. The body removes excess water to counter this in the form of urine and that’s why it’s easy to become dehydrated in the winter. Also because you sweat less, your body doesn’t trigger thirst in the same way, so it’s easy to become dehydrated.
The hydrating rules are the same in cold weather as in warm weather.
During warmer temperatures, you’ll have to watch for overheating and heat exhaustion. While when it’s cold, the onset of hypothermia is a real risk that can only be treated by immersing yourself in warmer temperature.
If it’s too cold outside, you don’t have to skip your training, just move it indoors. I know a treadmill may not be the ideal place for many runners to train, but maybe you can find an indoor track that will help keep your running routine and regimen fresh, while preventing unnecessary strain and injury.
Dr. Matthew Simmons is a board-certified physician in sports medicine and family medicine, and serves as the director of the Northside Hospital Cherokee Sports Medicine Program, providing care to high school athletes throughout Cherokee County.
Visit www.northside.com/Cherokee-Sports for more information