5 Reasons Your Body Will Thank You for Hitting the Treadmill Instead of Running Outside During Colder Weather

Plenty of runners prefer to be outside for their daily exercise. That can be great, but it can be well worth visiting local gyms to run on a treadmill when the weather gets colder. It takes a little extra motivation to get outside when you can see your breath hanging in front of you; there's always the chance that you'll slip on a random piece of ice, and it's hard to wear enough to stay warm without piling on enough to be soaking in sweat once you're halfway into your run.

However, there are also several physiological reasons why your body just isn't fit for running in cold temperatures. Here are five.

1. Breathing is Harder

You have to breathe harder while running, and the cold air can make that uncomfortable when it hits the back of your throat. However, more important is the impact that lower temperatures have on your body's ability to circulate oxygen. Colder molecules move slower than warmer ones, which means that cold air takes up more space. It might sound odd, but the amount of air you breathe in won't actually contain as many oxygen molecules as normal.

2. Blood Vessels Are Constricted

When your body is cold, your blood vessels constrict. This is problematic from a runner's perspective because it inhibits the circulation of blood around the body. Your muscles need oxygen-rich blood more than ever when you're running, and the blood will also help start the process of healing your muscles during the cool-down phase.

3. Your Legs Are Less Powerful

Evidence has demonstrated that your muscle contractions are less powerful in colder climates. One piece of research suggested that the reduction in the effectiveness of slow-twitch muscle fibres, which are used in distance running, caused an increase in the use of fast-twitch muscle fibres, which are used for short bursts of speed. Unless you only do short sprints, you'll find that the muscle fibres you usually use for running aren't as forceful; this will cause you to rely more on fibres that aren't designed to be used for distance work.

4. You Can Harm Your Skin

Runners aren't likely to develop hypothermia or frostbite, but they can experience minor skin damage. If you go out running in the cold, you might find that your skin is itchy and red when you get back indoors. This isn't a serious problem, but it's actually caused by the skin tissue starting to freeze. Your skin will then become itchy when it starts to thaw out.  

5. Your Muscles Will Be Contracted

During cold weather, your muscles will contract in order to maintain as much heat as possible. As all runners know, starting to exercise while your muscles are tight is pretty painful. It will make the run uncomfortable, and you'll find your range of motion diminished. More importantly, running on muscles that are tight makes it easier for them to become injured.

It might not seem as interesting to run on a treadmill after running outside, but modern machines can be used to match the speed and incline that you're used to. Best of all, you'll be able to run in a room kept at a healthy temperature. You'll be able to concentrate on getting better instead of fighting the effects of the cold.