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10 tips on running in winter


Will breathing cold air harm your lungs? Is it okay to feel cold while you’re running? What kind of running shoes deliver grip on ice? Professor Christina Spengler teaches at the Institute of Human Movement Sciences and Sport at ETH Zurich. Here, she presents ten tips that make running in winter even more fun.

1. Resist the magnetic pull of your comfy couch

As a general rule, you should definitely not be less active in winter than in summer. Cold weather is no excuse for passing up a chance for some exercise. When the weather is crisp and cold, running in the fresh air can be even more refreshing and invigorating. But if you really can’t stand the thought of going out, opt for indoor sports instead – go swimming or to the local gym, or even exercise at home, with or without an online coach. Why? Because all of the scientific literature agrees that physical exercise is the best medicine and helps to prevent a whole series of illnesses.

Running in winter can turn out to be a battle with the elements, but a spot of snow is no excuse for cutting down on sporting activities. Not that snow was ever going to deter the runners in the Tor des Géants ultramarathon in the Italian Alps, where this photo was taken. Photo: Tor des Géants


2. You can always go for a run – if you wear the right clothing

Our sense of what feels cold or even too cold varies from one person to the next, although women do tend to feel the cold more than men. So there’s no single silver bullet solution in terms of what or how many layers (see below) you should wear. That will be determined by your subjective sense of how cold it feels and how far you are intending to run.  The longer you are out running, the more your body will warm up. So coming back to those layers of clothing, when running in cold weather, be sure to apply the “onionskin” principle and wear several layers of clothing, ideally made of breathable fabric. Then, if you get too warm, take off the top layer and tie it around your waist. The general rule is that it’s okay to feel a little cold when you set off; you’ll soon warm up. What’s really important, though, is to wear reflective clothing so that you’re clearly visible to all road users.

Professor Christina Spengler is Deputy Head of the Institute of Human Movement Sciences and Sport at ETH Zurich. A prominent figure in the field of research, she specialises among other things in the interaction of the body’s various systems (e.g. cardiovascular and respiratory system, neuromuscular and metabolic system) and how they interact with subjective body perception during physical exercise. Photo: private

3. Warm up before you set off

No matter if it’s summer or winter, your muscles and joints will benefit from a short warm-up routine. This will get your metabolism going and heat up your muscles. Warming up is particularly important in winter. The colder your muscles, the more likely you are to sustain an injury. The human muscles are not particularly efficient, as they convert just 25 percent of the energy uptake into actual motion. The majority is converted into heat.

4. Breathe through your nose

If you’re not heading for the North Pole or the Himalayas, in principle you can go running outdoors at all normal winter temperatures. In Central European latitudes at least, there is hardly ever a day on which it’s truly unpleasant outside, let alone unhealthy. The important thing, when it’s frosty, is to breathe through your nose. Our noses warm and moisturise the cold air, as well as filtering out any dust and dirt. Incidentally it’s best to breathe both in and out through your nose. Because when you exhale, your breath moisturises and warms the mucous membranes. If, on the other hand, you only inhale through your nose, you are robbing those membranes of both heat and moisture. That said, some runners can breathe through their noses better than others, as this depends to a very large extent on the anatomy of the nose. If you have a smaller nose with narrow nostrils, less air will be drawn in with each breath, resistance becomes too strong, the respiratory muscles are overtaxed and you grow short of breath. If that is the case with you, then you should also breathe through your mouth.

5. Covering your mouth and nose can help

Some people have problems with cold air when out running. Cold air is normally dry and can irritate the airways. Running with a light scarf or buff over your mouth and nose helps by collecting moisture and warming the air a little before you inhale it. Sports equipment stores stock special face masks with Velcro fasteners. Otherwise, just use a light scarf. Incidentally, some runners with sensitive respiratory tracts deliberately go running in misty conditions, because then there’s more moisture in the air. At the same time, though, mist also absorbs dirt and dust more effectively, which irritates the airways all the more. So running in the mist is not such a neat trick, particularly not for those who suffer from irritations of the respiratory tract.

Tyres and shoe soles have something in common: they provide the grip that keeps us on track. Together, Continental and adidas develop running and outdoor shoes with the ideal running properties, even when the going gets slippery. Photo: Continental

6. Make sure your feet can grip

When you run in winter you’re sure to encounter tricky ground conditions. With ice, snow or slush to contend with, you will need the right shoes with more tread on the soles to provide more grip. A number of different manufacturers offer models that are well suited to wintry conditions. If your shoes tend to slip, it will break your natural running style and rhythm, or you might take a tumble and hurt yourself. 

7. Never go running if you’re not well

Winter is the season for coughs and colds. So the rule is only go running if you’re 100% fit. A nasty cold, particularly if you also have a fever, can prove dangerous, because the virus can build up around the heart, leading to inflammation. Often enough you won’t even notice this happening, but in some cases it can even lead to scar tissue forming in the heart. Give your body time to relax and recover. As a rule of thumb, don’t start running again until at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, and then build up again slowly.

8. Drink a lot!

Your body needs a higher fluid intake in winter than in early summer, for example. Moisture leaves the body with every breath you take, so you need to drink a sufficient amount before you set out. If you’re planning a longer run, lasting say an hour or more, you should also take along something to drink. When it comes to food, listen to what your body or instincts are telling you. Some people like a morning run on an empty stomach, because that boosts fat burning. On the other hand, some people argue that during sports carbohydrates in the body offer protection against infections of the airways. At the end of the day, you need to decide for yourself what feels better: running on a full or empty stomach.

Running in winter can be fun – if you take note of a few basic tips.


9. Getting enough sleep is crucial

Getting enough sleep is always vital for athletes, but never more so than in winter.

A lack of sleep weakens your immune system and leaves the body more vulnerable to colds, particularly when temperatures drop. Added to which, exercise feels distinctly more strenuous when you’re short of sleep than when you’re well rested. And be sure to take enough time out to relax after a run.

10. Keep to a healthy speed

Inexperienced runners or people who start running again after a break tend to run too fast and risk overtaxing their systems. To benefit your health, you should run roughly two and a half hours per week at a moderate pace. Moderate means that you should just about be able to maintain a conversation while running, without getting out of breath. Then there is the airflow to consider – the air flowing around you as you run. The faster you run, the bigger the impact of airflow. The effects of airflow are felt less by runners than by cyclists, for example, but it’s still a relevant factor, particularly in cold weather. On account of what’s known as the wind chill factor, the faster the air flows past you, the colder you feel it is. So if you like to run fast, you would do well to slow down a little from time to time.

The technology Behind Ultimate Performance

Continental and adidas #GetYourGrip

As a technical partner with adidas, more than 10 million running shoes a year are sold with Continental compound technology built into the soles. Why our soles make a difference:

Tyre technology that accelerates you

By using the same technology as our high-performance tyres our soles give you the grip you need to combat every season on wet or on dry surfaces.

Get the grip

With adidas adizero BOOST and Continental technology you gain more grip than you would with competitor running shoes.

Unrivalled performance

Every year since 2011, a new Marathon World Record in adidas adzero shoes with Continental Traction Compound soles has been achieved.

Continental tyre know-how

We know what we do, because we've been in the tyre business for a long time. Over 140 years of tyre technology leads to a new level of traction.

From optimum braking performance in car tyres to providing the best grip in running footwear! Adidas now equip a range of their trainers with Continental soles, to enhance running performance at all levels.


We Create Winners

Dennis Kimetto

Marathon World Record - 41st Berlin Marathon 2014 - 02:02:57 hours

Dennis Kimetto
Wilson Kipsang

Marathon World Record - 40th Berlin Marathon 2013 - 02:03:23 hours

Wilson Kipsang
Patrick Makau

Marathon World Record - 38th Berlin Marathon 2011 - 02:03:38 hours

Patrick Makau

Our ultimate grip technology has been put to the ultimate test. At the ContiGripRun 2017 event on Friday 22 September, history was truly made. We worked with adidas to to put our long-standing technology cooperation to the test.

Working with two pro athletes, we decided to aim for a world record attempt which involved the brave athletes running up the Heini-Klopfer-Ski jump. Struggling against a challenging 37 degree gradient, Johannes Rydzek broke the Guinness World Record with a time of 27.69 seconds to beat the record for fastest 50 metres on an inclined gradient. 


Auto Express Award Winning Tyres

PremiumContact™ 6
Award Winning PremiumContact™ 6

Don’t just take our word for it, Auto Express say, “The PremiumContact™ 6 was the best tyre to drive in both wet and dry, there was a liveliness to its handling that no rival could match and few could get close to. In the wet, the PremiumContact™ 6 was in a league of its own, the sharpness was there on the wet track with a strong front end pulling you through turns - where rivals just pushed wide.

The tyres’ consistent performance across a range of testing led towards another fantastic win for Continental and the PremiumContact™ range.”

WinterContact™ TS 860
Award Winning WinterContact™ TS 860

On the winning performance of the Continental WinterContact™ TS 860, Auto Express said; “A third victory on the trot for the TS 860, which could almost be designed for British winters. Continental set the pace in the wet braking and handling, and felt sharp on the track, with impressive traction in corners. It’s rare that a tyre picks up a hat-trick of wins in our tests, but the Continental TS 860 has done exactly that, yet again putting together a series of top results in all weathers.”

Award Winning AllSeasonContact™

Steve Fowler, editor-in-chief of Auto Express, said: “Just a quick look at the results is enough to show which was the dominant tyre in this test. No matter what the surface, the AllSeasonContact™ was on the podium. Continental may have come late to the all-season party, but it has made a winning entrance. A great test debut that shows how an all-season tyre should perform.”

Running Tips and Tricks

Professor Jens Bangsbo is one of the world’s most renowned running experts. Among other career highlights, the former Danish national soccer player served as assistant coach to Italian team Juventus Turin for five years, where he worked under Carlo Ancelotti and Marcello Lippi, training stars like Zinedine Zidane and Gianluigi Buffon. Today Bangsbo is a much-consulted sports scientist and author.

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Running is not a punishment

Before you start running, you should take a moment to reflect on your attitude and motivation – why are you interested in this activity? The most important thing is that you don’t consider exercise in general and running in particular as a form of punishment. Instead, exercise can be a physical and mental reward, a hobby that will be very good for you in the long term. Framing things positively always boosts your motivation.


There is no single perfect time to run

I personally like to run after work because it helps me feel good and clear my head after a stressful day. But everyone has to find their own rhythm and best time for running. Whenever you just feel like running – that’s the right time. If you notice that your body isn’t physically ready for exercise first thing in the morning, then you should probably run in the evenings instead. There’s no point in dragging yourself out of bed and into your running shoes and forcing yourself to do a few laps. Your motivation will evaporate before you even make it out the door.

Variety can be motivating

Every now and then it’s good to vary your normal route, take a detour to the right or left, or even try a completely new path. That will make your run much more interesting, because you don’t know what’s coming around the next corner. On the other hand, many runners like sticking to the same route because they always know exactly where they are at each point, and can check to see how much time they needed and if they’ve gotten any faster. This form of competing against yourself is also very motivating for many people.

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10, 20, 30

I recommend the 10-20-30 concept – which actually should be called 30-20-10. Warm up for five minutes, then jog gently for 30 seconds, run at your normal pace for 20 seconds, and sprint for 10 seconds. Then you can rest for two minutes before starting your next round. Ten seconds of all-out effort is doable – knowing it will be over soon motivates you to really push yourself. You do up to five of these blocks of running and resting, so you’ve run for about 20 minutes. Running for 20 minutes twice a week is plenty at the beginning.


Be honest with yourself

There are any number of reasons and excuses for not exercising. But you should be honest – ask yourself if you really don’t have time to exercise for 20 minutes twice a week. At the beginning of the week, it’s best to set aside two timeslots for exercise. If you can, also choose two fixed days, then you don’t have to spend time each week thinking about when to go running.


Rewards are overrated

Some people think that every time they’ve exercised they deserve a reward, like a cold beer or something sweet. Of course you’re allowed to have a treat, but it’s not an effective long-term strategy – if you reward yourself every time you exercise, then at some point it’s not special any more. And then it’s no longer a source of motivation. If you’re exercising to lose weight, it’s also counterproductive. You should consider the good feeling that you usually have after running as your true reward.

Running with friends is more fun – like here in Central Park in New York. Photo: Gruban

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Run with friends

I personally like to go running with someone else from time to time. This can also help with your motivation, because you’re less likely to get lazy and find an excuse not to go at the last minute. Plus it’s more fun to exercise with a friend – you can talk, you have the fun of doing something together. You’ll be finished with your run before you know it.


Choose the right music

Music can help you discover your own rhythm while running and get you moving – as long as it’s the right music. It shouldn’t be too fast or frantic, but it can’t be too dreamlike, either. It has to match the cadence of your running. I often choose to leave my headphones at home, however. When I run in the woods, I like to listen to the sounds of nature – the birds or the wind in the trees. I find that relaxing.


Make running part of your routine

Integrate running into your daily routine. It’s usually easy to combine with other elements of your day. One option is running to work in the morning or running home in the evening. That won’t cost you any extra time, and when you get home you can just flop down on the couch. If you decide to try it, I recommend getting a running backpack, one that fits snugly so it doesn’t swing back and forth and bother you while you’re running.

Good shoes double your fun

Continental and adidas #GetYourGrip

Here at Continental we know a good running shoe is important to keeping you motivated. Digging your old trainers out of the closet or buying cheap shoes at a discount price will leave you with blisters or aching muscles because they don’t provide the right support, therefore just like our tyres we ensure the soles on a range of adidas trainers have the ultimate grip, so you can have the ultimate run.

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