As the temperatures start to fall, here are some helpful tips to prevent injuries when running outside.

In order to avoid shocking your muscles, a good warm up is essential and will also prevent injuries from occurring. A warm up will usually include some dynamic stretches, meaning you are moving as you stretch. It is beneficial to elevate your heart rate through quick aerobic exercises such as mountain climbers or jumping jacks. Remember also that when temperatures drop you’ll want to pace yourself at the beginning of your run. It is better to maintain a steady pace rather than starting out fast and increasing sweat production.

Wearing proper clothing can make the difference between running comfortably and listening to your teeth chatter the entire time. One way to ensure that your body is prepared for the elements is to layer your clothing. Layering allows the air to travel between your layers and act as an additional insulator. As you warm up, you can remove layers to avoid excessive sweat build-up. Be sure to include an active, moisture-wicking base layer. This will be optimal in helping to reduce evaporative cooling.

On particularly cold days, ensure that you pay close attention to your ears, nose, toes, and fingers. They may feel numb at first but should warm up the longer you run. However, a patch of hard, pale, cold skin could signify that you are seeing the first effects of frostbite. If you notice this, you should quickly get to shelter and warm the affected area. Be sure to seek medical attention if the condition persists. It is wise to wear special gear to keep these extremities warm. Items such as gloves, earmuffs, beanies, neck gaiters and even face masks are all staples in a cold weather runner’s closet. If you listen to music when you run, gloves with touch screen capabilities will save you from having to stop and remove your gloves when you need to access your phone.

Be sure to keep an eye on the forecast and avoid running in a snow storm. Rather than basing your clothing and workout choices on temperature, pay special attention to wind chill which can significantly drop degrees. As conditions get more extreme it is a good idea to run closer to home, possibly doing multiple shorter laps instead of one large lap. This allows a “bail-out” point in case of injury or sudden weather changes.

Finally, you may want to change your running shoes for the winter season. The vented mesh that keeps feet cool in the summer will let rain, snow, and wind in leading to soggy frozen toes. Find shoes made with a sturdier liner, preferably water-proof, with a little mesh. Additionally, the cushion in your soles will stiffen with the decreasing temperature leading to an increased risk of injury. Avoid shoes with polyurethane soles which lose the most shock absorption. Instead, find a pair with EVA foam which stands up best to the cold temperatures.

After you’ve stocked up on the right gear and completed your warm up, get out there and don’t be afraid to run in the cold.

-Bryan Garner, DPT