It’s too cold, too wet, too slippery, too windy, too dark, too early…
Reasons—or, more accurately, excuses—for not running in the winter months are as varied as the runners who use them. But waiting for the perfect day to start running outside is like a couple waiting until they can afford to have children. Wait too long and it’ll never happen.
Sure, it’s cold and blustery out, but that alone is not sufficient enough justification for neglecting the opportunity to run outside. With the advances in workout gear and technology, there are few weather conditions that cannot be made more bearable with a little preparation. And with the spring race season just around the corner, many athletes are missing out on realizing their fullest capabilities by ignoring training opportunities at this time of year. While many runners lament that spring is not a good season in which to achieve personal best times and race goals, with a good winter base and a little up-tempo training, it might actually be the optimal season for personal gains and achievements.
Winter is actually one of the best seasons for outdoor training and performance gains because of the prevalent mindset of so many athletes. The fact that your best gains can be realized while others take time off during the winter is one solid reason to get out the door and train now. But even if your chief rivals and competitors are diligently pursuing their own winter training, you can still take advantage of the cold weather and push beyond your normal perceived limits to make gains you may not have dreamed possible. The oppressive heat and humidity of late spring and summer, the seasons when the overwhelming majority of athletes train with earnest, can often be contrary to an athlete’s aspirations. Trying to push the physical limits during the summer, when dehydration and heat indexes become a factor, means that most athletes will not realize their greatest potential during the fall racing season—a time when most athletes actually believe they are at their greatest level of fitness and ability.
In all actuality, winter offers the greatest opportunity for optimal performance gains because athletes seldom have to contend with heat related issues and dehydration during hard, demanding workouts. But there is one more benefit to cold weather running that nearly any athlete, regardless of his or her ability level can approve of: cold weather running burns more calories than warm weather exercise (See: http://www.menshealth.co.uk/fitness/cardio-exercise/the-ice-edge). Because the body expends energy to keep warm, much like a hot burning furnace, an athlete who exercises in the winter will burn more calories than those athletes who strictly train in warmer climes.
So, what are you waiting for? To make the most of your fitness opportunities, or even shed a few extra pounds, there is no time like the present to start your physical exercise regime outdoors.