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Why is it harder running in the cold?

Now we've had a taste of some cold weather, have you felt like you're working a lot harder to maintain the running pace at warmer temperatures? Well science reveals there are a number of physiological challenges your body faces when running in the cold.

# a cold environment significantly decreases muscle strength. Muscle contractions are less efficient, making the forces of contraction lower.

# VO2 max (the maximum rate of oxygen your body is able to use during exercise) begins to reduce when the temperature starts to drop below 10 degrees Celsius. Heart rate tends to be higher, and fatigue sets in earlier.

# Glycogen stores are used by the body at a much higher rate in cold temperatures. Reasons for this are due to shivering, which depletes glycogen stores 5-6 times faster than normal, and an increase in adrenaline which stimulates glycogen breakdown.

To help avoid early fatigue, performing a full dynamic warm-up before running will help increase blood flow to the working muscle groups. Clothing is also important in keeping muscles warm, as exposed skin will only divert blood flow away from where it is really needed. During longer runs, think about taking on some fuel in the way of gels to help boost sugar levels before your body starts to delve into your glycogen stores.


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