How Temperature Affects Your Running Performance


| LAST UPDATE 01/30/2023

By Daria Appleby
Running Performance Weather Affects
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For all the fitness junkies out there, running is a different breed from any other kind of exercise. Exercise varies across a range of activities. While strength training is all about patience and building muscle, running is all about endurance. Moreover, other factors affect running performance....

Dedicated and committed runners can tackle any temperature, no matter how low or high. When the sun is shining, sweat almost feels like an achievement, not to mention the glorious rays shining against your skin. In contrast, there's nothing more refreshing than a crisp-air jog. Just be careful not to slip. While these temperature differences might affect us at face value, what is it actually doing to the performance? Despite limited research, studies revealed in the 2015 journal Comprehensive Physiology suggest "aerobic performance is degraded in cold environments." Although this doesn't provide a consensus over cold temperatures and the activity, one study found "cold air reduced performance by 5% in −20 degrees Celsius," says LiveScience.

Running Performance Winter Weather
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Cold temperatures do not prevent higher performance, as the body itself creates heat. Matthew Debney, a sport and exercise scientist at Sheffield Hallam University, explains, "Our metabolism is about 20% efficient, meaning only around 20% of the energy produced is used for muscle contractions and other processes... The other 80% of what we metabolize is released as heat. That's good for us when exercising in the cold because we can warm ourselves up fairly quickly." It is important to be cautious of how to tackle the cold weather while running. LiveScience elaborates, "when body heat production is less than that lost to the external environment, then heat storage will be negative and deep body temperature will fall." Hence, it is vital to maintain a healthy balance between the microenvironment and external conditions. For those who go the extra mile, sprinters tend not to warm up. While warming up the muscles contributes to running efficiency, Denby suggests, "the gap between warming-up and sprinting should also be short so the active muscles are not able to cool down again." Regarding hotter conditions, according to a 2020 review in the journal Temperature, heat stress can negatively impact performance, and the runner will become dehydrated. However, if the sweat is able to evaporate, then the body itself can prevent dehydration as the sweat rate decreases and the blood volume is "reduced." The heart has to work much harder during hotter environments as there is more "demand for blood in the muscles."

So, in hindsight, a light breeze on a semi-cool day is the perfect weather to run in. However, we don't control the temperatures outside, so it's important to be prepared with the essentials to take care of our bodies. Whether it's the risk of frostbite or dehydration, take precautions when stepping outside for your next walk.

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