Don’t let a drop in temperature force you and your pup to drop your run! Running in cold weather requires foresight and planning, injuries can happen easily in low temps, but it shouldn’t stop you from getting those runs in. In fact, wintertime runs can be among the most peaceful because so few other runners and dogs are out.
Tip #1: Never skip your warmup.
That goes for both you and your dog. This might be the single most important part of running in cold weather safely and effectively. Frigid temps restrict your body’s natural blood flow and tighten muscles. That can leave you and your dog more prone to injury. So, do some dynamic stretching to warm up before you head out into the cold. Most running pros recommend jumping jacks, squats, lunges—anything but static stretches—indoors to get your muscles warmed up; however, most dogs won’t do squats and lunges along with you! Instead, consider an indoor game of tug or fetch, or set up a simple obstacle course in your living room or hallway (think chairs to weave around, a broom to jump over, and so on) to get your dog moving before you head into the chilly temps. Once you are outside, start with a warm-up walk that gradually increases in pace to get those muscles loose and ready for a safer run.
Tip #2: Adjust your expectations.
Simply put, running in the cold is harder than running in warm or even mild weather. You and your dog are more likely to suffer muscle tears or pulls in icy conditions. No matter what times and distances you and your dog clock together the rest of the year, prepare to back off until you get your winter footing. As for pacing, Alexis S. Tingan, MD, CAQSM, Assistant Professor of Clinical Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Penn wrote, “Ideally, your pace at the end of the run should be as fast as (or faster than) your starting pace… and you will also have the added psychological benefit of knowing that you finished strong!”
Dress your dog for cold-weather success. Is there ice and salt on the road? Your dog needs boots not only for the traction but also to protect his pads from the harsh salt (or chemical ice-melt) put down in the winter. Your dog can stay warm in all conditions with a base layer that works by itself or underneath a weather-proof coat that adds warmth and water-resistance.
Tip #3: Hydrate.
In the heat, it’s easy to tell you’re losing water because you can feel and see all your sweat. In the cold, especially if you’re layered in technical running gear that wicks your sweat away, you might not tell as easily how much water you’re losing. Drink a lot, and bring plenty for your dog. Consider a system like this sharable water bottle or clip a collapsible bowl to your running belt.
Tip #4: Finally, take time to cool down.
For you, this might mean working in static stretches. For your dog, consider giving him a rub down and allowing him to walk a bit before heading indoors. If he got wet, make sure to dry him thoroughly, and consider a fleece jacket or sweater to keep his muscles warm as his body cools down.