Why Outdoor Sport is Healthy Even in the Cold
Sometimes one can really kick oneself for one's own stupidity. Three weeks ago – the time BEFORE winter hit Berlin – I went out running on the old Tempelhof Airfield. It was a beautiful day, with about 10 ° Celsius too warm for the season. The sun shone over the field and on the old airport building. It was a fantastic view. More people were out then usual enjoying the day as I was. I only wore socks with my long, warm running tights. Therefore my ankle lay bare more or less because of the gap between the tights and the socks. After half an hour or so my left Achilles tendon started to hurt. I more or less hobbeled home.
Five days later, I did not feel anything, I went out running again. The weather – again – was great, again I wore socks. Again, after half an hour my Achilles tendon started to hurt and now it became serious. It was quite painful to get back and the next day I could hardly walk. The doctors diagnosis: inflammation by exposure to cold. Great! That is one of those moments were I could kick myself for my own stupidity. Why? Because I should have known better!!! The consequence is that I cannot run for up to eight weeks which seriously endangers my participation at the Berlin half-marathon on March 30 which I planned to run in less than 1:45.
And although I kicked myself out of the race by bad judgment, running in the cold is no problem and even quite healthy provided one observes some precautions (as I should have!). And those are:
- Always wear long, warm clothes covering the whole body. Do not dress too warm. If it is a bit cold when stepping out it is okay because during the training one gets warm. At low temperatures the blood circulation of the skin, connective tissue, tendons and joints is poor, so that they are less elastic. Warm clothes reduce the risk of strain or injury of the Achilles tendon (!). If temperatures drop below zero degrees Celsius one should even keep the calves extra-warm with cuffs.
- The outer clothes should be able to stop wind and the inner ones should transport humidity away from the skin. It might be even necessary to wear a warm cap and gloves.
- Wear reflector stripes or clothes with them when running at dawn or dusk.
- Be aware of slippery spots and wear running shoes with a good, non-slip sole.
- After the exercise you should get out of the wet clothing as soon as possible and rest for some time to help your immune system. Otherwise there is some risk to catch a cold.
- If you catch a cold stop running. A simple cold can move in the bronchi by running training. In addition the heart muscle can be infected by viruses with fatal consequences.
- Especially runners should visit a sauna from time to time. Sweating strengthens the immune system and the heat is good for the muscles. The same effect has a hot bath.
- Cold air does not do any harm to the lung, the bronchi or the mucosa. On the contrary it stimulates them. But if the temeprature falls under 15 degrees Celsius one should protect oneself because then the cold air will not naturally be heated up enough by the body before reaching the lungs.
- Training in cold weather makes you feel more alive and energized. This is because the body and the brain do not need so much energy to cool down the body.
- The warm-up for running is – running. During warmer seasons it is no problem to just start but during winter it is advisable to warm-up before and get the blood circulation started. Either by doing some push-ups and squats inside or by start running in a slow pace. Of course you can combine both or vary the warm-up. Important is that you feel some warmth inside you and the joints have been stretched and moved before because that sets free the liqiud which lubricates them and ensures movements without problems or unwanted consequences.