Cold feet and cold hands are an issue with Winter running and general outdoor exercise. As you will have found out if you put on too many layers before venturing out, your body core warms up quite quickly once you get going, leaving you a bit hot and bothered after the first mile!
It is a different matter with your hands and feet however, as the extremities take longer to warm up, with the body waiting until the core reaches a sufficient temperature before releasing vital heat to your fingers and toes via the circulation.
The answer to this seems obvious; wear gloves and suitably insulated socks and shoes to ward off the cold. This can take some experimentation to get the right combination. Warmups are important during the Winter months to get the circulation going to the extremities. Don’t stand around chatting for too long before a race!
What are the consequences then of running on cold legs and feet?
Well we know from research that cold muscles, ligaments and tendons have less flexibility and generate less power. This could adversely affect your performance if you are going for a PB and could also make you more vulnerable to injury if you do not spend sufficient time warming up.
In terms of the circulation, rapid rewarming can increase the risk of chilblains as the rapid opening of the capillaries can cause painful irritation, so avoid rushing to the radiator or hot tap when you get home!
So, what are the take away points?
Don’t layer up for your run and forget your hands and feet. Choose gloves and socks carefully for the weather you are running in and make sure they have sufficient insulation against the cold.
Allow more time for warmups before a running event. Light jogging, lunges and active movement of your hands and feet and keep those going right up to the start line.
Avoid rapid rewarming of your feet and hands. Get yourself indoors and move your hands and feet until they warm up. No radiators or hot taps!
The benefits of exercising in the cold far outweigh the disadvantages in stimulating the circulation and warding off those Winter blues so wrap up (but not too much!) and get out there!