Feb 02, 2023

…the need to pee, the muscle puzzle and some other notes on running in the cold

Do you remember the feeling as a child when the first snow lightened up your neighborhood? You just wanted to run out ASAP and dive into the magic. How can we find that blissful spark of joy again as an adult? We are already struggling to get the 9-5 wheel spinning as smoothly as possible, and bam, all of a sudden there’s snow.


Remember the article we wrote about acclimating to hot weather? Humans are pretty well designed to increase our sweat rate and skin blood flow in warm weather, but we are relatively poor at acclimating to cold weather.

Your muscle force production decreases in colder temperatures. Cold muscles contract with less force than warm muscles, and the neural recruitment pattern of muscle fibers changes, which results in less efficient contractions and further reduces muscle force.

Just before you step out the door, make sure to prepare your body by doing a dynamic warm up to increase muscle temperature and blood flow. Squats, lunges, a bit of stretching, you name it…


Don’t be embarrassed. Having to urinate more often in the winter is completely normal. There’s even a name for it that you can Google after reading this article: Cold Diuresis. Your blood vessels naturally constrict in cold temperatures, in order for your body to direct blood flow to your vital organs. Your kidneys create urine as a way to filter out waste from your blood. The increased blood flow to the kidneys increases urine production, which makes you pee at a higher frequency.


The cold can also change your metabolism, since your body uses fewer free fatty acids and more glycogen for energy. As a runner, you know what glucose and glycogen loss means - you’ll hit the wall.
Are you planning for a longer run? Make sure to fuel up on carbs in the preceding 24 hours. Bring dry snacks that aren’t affected by colder temperatures and set up a hydration plan. Drinking too much cold liquid while running can lower your body temperature, so keep flasks and such, close to your skin, to keep them warm by your body heat.

Invest in equipment. You don’t always have to buy new things. You might already have it at home. Imitate the birds and fluff up in the cold, to trap as much air as possible between your “feathers” (read layers). Your body heat will warm the air and that’s basically what layering is all about. Make sure to pick warm and moisture wicking clothing and don’t forget the hat and gloves.

1. A base layer in sports wool
2. A long-sleeve running top and long pants/tights
3. Warm socks
4. If below zero: a padded vest
5. A ventilated and weatherproof jacket
6. Hat, gloves and a scarf or similar to cover your neck

Get shoes that have additional traction or treading on them so you don’t slip. (Our friends at Icebug make fantastic winter and environmentally friendly shoes).

If you don’t want to buy new shoes you can customize your own:
1. Grips: Removable anti-slip grips for running could be worth investing in. Easy to take off if the road conditions change.
2. Insoles: Get removable insoles that are easy to pull out after your run if you get wet. The shoe dries faster that way.
3. Gaiters: Trail running gaiters, prevent dirt and snow from getting into your shoe.


The snow is glistening, but the daylight is not. Try to carpe diem as much as possible for your daily vitamin D, cortisol and fresh air. Winter equals less sunlight and a lot of darkness. That means it is hard for you to see the road ahead of you and it’s even harder for drivers to see you at all. Stay safe, wear reflectives and reduce the risk of slipping and tripping by running in well-lit areas.


Last but not least, benefit from the cold! The streets are empty. Adults rather become canned sardines than exposing themselves to the winter wonderland. Avoid road rage, unnecessary CO2 emissions and being constantly late for work with winter related excuses. Pick up run commuting - it will save you a lot of time and temper. Frosty the Snowman was a jolly happy soul*, and you could be too. It’s time to gear up and find your inner child. Because, why not?!

* Frosty the Snowman, was written by Walter Rollins & Steve Nelson in 1950


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