Why should you run outside in the winter? Womens’ Health magazine has given their top five reasons why, and we like their list. Among other things, the magazine says that you are healthier outside versus in a club (fewer germs) and you just might find yourself exercising longer because it is more interesting and natural to be outside instead of inside.
We would add a few other reasons why it is good to get outside in the winter, or at a minimum mix a few outdoor workouts in with your indoor ones. In no particular order:
You Race in the Elements; Why Not Train in Them Too? For those of us who do marathons, road races, or triathlons, we all know that you will never get so lucky as to have all of your races occur on a perfectly still, 70 degree day with a controlled climate. Instead, you can fully expect to have some races in cold temps, some in warm, some in the wind, some in the rain, and maybe even a few in the snow (it has happened to us). If you race in the elements, it stands to reason that you should train in them as well. A good cold weather running schedule will add to your ability to comfortably take on those early or late season races, especially if you live in a Northern climate.
Your Body Needs All the Natural Vitamin D it can get. In the winter, when the sun is only up for perhaps 10 hours per day and it can be a dull sun at that, your body is craving the vitamin D that you take for granted in the summer. The health benefits of vitamin D are seemingly endless, with its positive effects on depression, osteoporosis, and some types of cancer being the most often confirmed benefits. A main source of vitamin D is sunlight, and the sunlight you get in the winter is a fraction of what many people might need. Skiers and other winter athletes tend to get their dose of vitamin D, but for the average weekend athlete it can be useful to try to get some additional exposure. A nice, long run on a sunny winter day can give you a healthy jolt of vitamin D, not to mention the other chemicals released during a typical workout. The combination can leave you feeling great and help you break out of the funk you woke up with on a cold morning.
An Outdoor Path is Often the Road Less Travelled in Winter. I’m not sure about you, but the last time I went to the health club (yesterday), the parking lot was full, it was tough to find a locker, and I feared that if I gave up my treadmill for a minute to get some water, I would lose it to a waiting exerciser. While this time of year is peak time inside a health club, it is off-peak time on your favorite running trail. You may find that you have the trail all to yourself, or that you are sharing it with other avid and devoted athletes rather than every weekend cyclist, rollerblader, dog-walker, and stroller in your neighborhood. Most runners will tell you that some of their best runs come in the winter for just this reason.
We think Womens’ Health got it right, and we think that when you add our reasons to their list, it creates a very compelling reason to stop reading this and get outside right away. Put on your favorite running tights, layer up according to the temp and wind, and enjoy the natural sunlight peaceful trails.