Reader To Reader: Baby it's cold outside

So you've managed to get out the door in freezing weather - but then your legs refuse to warm up. What's the answer?


Posted: 16 February 2007
by Jane Hoskyn


Sub-zero temperatures aren't very inviting, but at least running quickly gets the blood flowing and the body temperature cooking. In theory, anyway. One RW reader revealed on the forum that her legs never warm up when she's running in the cold...

"I went for a 10-mile run yesterday in very cold temperatures, wearing my usual leggings and light jacket. I realised as I ran that my leg muscles were actually numb. I thought leg movement whilst running would warm them up, but I had no feeling in them at all! Is there a risk of doing damage? My legs feel very stiff this morning, despite stretching when I got home. Any comments?"Bella



Your best answers

  • Keep your torso warm, and the legs will follow
    Are you sure it's your legs that are the problem? When your torso and head get cold, your body reduces the bloodflow to the body extremities because it's trying to concentrate on keeping your vital organs and brain warm. That's why your hands and feet get cold. Sometimes it's better to wear a windproof such as a Montane Featherlite, a top and a hat like a Berghaus Powerstretch, and concentrating on keeping your torso warm. You may even get away with running in shorts, which means sweating less. – FrankBooth
  • Get some Gore Tex garb
    It's worth investing in a pair of Gore tights, such as the Mythos ones. They may be expensive but they keep the legs warm and allow you to get on with the run without problems. The quad muscles have good blood supply, so, for them to feel numb, one of two things must have happened: either the blood was shunted to help the running and ignored the need to keep the muscles warm, or your core temperature was threatened with a significant drop, so the circulation prioritised brain and upper body (when lungs, liver, heart need to keep warm) and left the lower limbs very cold. My wife and I bought a jacket/trouser Mythos Gore-Tex windstopper running outfit last month and use it whenever rain/cold/wind threaten to cut a run short. – MinasC
  • Another vote for Gore
    I suffer from the cold big time, so I bought the Lady Gore Mythos jacket and tights last month, after a rave review in RW. They are absolutely fabulous. Cost around £200 for the lot, and worth every penny. I stick them on with a Helly Hanson base layer top underneath, and I'm warm as toast. I can go out at about 4.30am with this kit and a beanie hat and gloves on, and not get cold. Brookes Nightlife tights and matching top are also nice and warm, though not the same spec as the Gore. Again, nice base layer to go under the top. – Little Lizard
  • Pack on the breathable layers
    When it's this cold I run in short (to the knee) and running tights, with long winter-weight running tights over the top. My legs stay nice and warm, but the tights are breathable so I don't get too hot. – Olive Oyl
  • Invest in Sugoi MidZero tights
    I got similar problems with my legs last winter, mainly because of wind-chill (I do most of my running in Blackpool). My legs felt really stiff and it affected my running – sometimes the run was over and I still hadn't warmed up. I bought a pair of Sugoi MidZero tights, which are fleecy on the inside, and they've made a huge difference to my legs. The tights are actually quite thin, but my legs warm up and my running feels much looser. They also allow me to get away with wearing a thin layer and a thin jacket on top, as I'm not working as hard to keep warm. I was quite worried I'd overheat in them, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I tried running once in my thicker fleece-lined cycling tights once and was sweating cobs... – tattiefritter
  • This may be a 'girl thing'
    Your muscles are probably plenty warm enough – it's just the outer layer of fat that feels cold because it doesn't have as many blood vessels running through it. But the general numbness will make it feel as if your muscles are stiff. I think women suffer from this problem more than men because we tend to have more fat, which might explain why lots of men can still run in skimpy shorts in winter while we're all lagged up in our leggings. I've considered wearing a normal pair of ladies tights underneath my leggings, but haven't tried it yet. – Juliefrazz
  • Icebreakers will keep you warm
    I had a long slow run last night wearing Icebreaker wool leggings under fleecy Lowe Alpine tights, and I was wonderfully toasty. I knew there was a reason why I bought loads of winter hillwalking gear in August! – Velociraptor
  • The magic of hats
    Last week I went out with my club, had no motivation: I was constantly cold; arms and everywhere. It was the first time for a while that I hadn't worn my little hat (100% polyester from Sainsbury's), because I thought it would make me over-heat. I think I've proved that I need to wear the hat – I can just shove it down my tights when I get hot! – SwimsLikeAWalrus
  • Emigrate
    Wear your leggings and a pair of tracksuit bottoms, or move to Botswana. – IronDuke
  • Also check out these forum threads:
    Winter Wear
    Freezing Legs!!
    Cold weather running


Any questions?
Got a new poser or problem that you want RW members to answer? Spotted a great question on the forum? Email us!

Click here to find out more about Reader to Reader.


Previous article
Beating Exercise Fatigue
Next article
Reader To Reader: Running to work

winter, gear, kit, cold, training misc
TwitterStumbleUponFacebookDiggRedditGoogle

Discuss this article


hi - I went for a 10M run yesterday in very cold temperatures wearing my usual leggings and light jacket etc, and realised as I ran my leg muscle were actually numb. I had no feeling in them at all and wondered if there is a risk of doing damage - I thought leg movement whilst running would warm them up? My legs feel very stiff this morning, despite stretching when I got home. Any comments?
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 08:05

You just have to wrap up more in this kind of weather, I don't normally feel the cold I so did last night that I had to cut my run short.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 08:29

I went for a run yesterday in the cold, and felt my thigh muscles tighten up, and had some knee pain afterwards. Four inches of snow, and still falling, here in Cambridge today, so i think I will be giving it a miss.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 09:15

My knees sometimes feel a bit stiff to start off with but they soon warm up.

I went out for a run last night in two pairs of shorts and felt fine. It was only on my way to the pub a little later (in my jeans, coat, etc) that I realised how blimmin' freezing it was! (Then later on I was wearing an additional beer jacket and felt fine again.)
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 09:16

Bella I was the same yesterday morning. My thighs actually hurt; burning with the cold. But I reckon the muscles were fine - they're well lagged (speaking for myself - yours look pretty skinny from here) and it was the lagging that was freezing. The fat was doing its job and keeping the muscles warm.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 09:20

ooh mine were stinging too - not nice! looks like I need to pad up a bit. As for running in shorts - are you mad?! Even 2 pairs!
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 10:09

Ha ha see you English have had easy for years now you know how it feels.Up here we are so hard its shorts and vest bring it on.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 10:11

nutters, the lot of you! I am sticking to the treadmill tonight and yes, am 100% wuss! Bring on the thaw!
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 10:15

I got similar problems with my legs last winter mainly caused by windchill (its always windy in Blackpool where I do most of my running). They felt really stiff and affected my running, sometimes the run was over and I hadn't warmed up yet. I bought a pair of Sugoi MidZero tights which are "fleecy" on the inside and it has made a huge difference to my legs. They are actually quite thin but my legs warm up and my running feels much looser. They also allow me to get away with wearing a thin layer and a thin jacket on top as I'm not working as hard to keep warm.

I was quite worried I'd overheat in them but that doesn't seem to be the case as I said above they are quite thin. I tried running once in my thicker fleece lined cycling tights and was sweating cobs.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 10:20

Aha - they sound just what I need - thanks Tattiefritter
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 10:46

Thanks for the tip on the Mid Zero tights. I had the same problem the other day and I was thinking of trying my cycling tights - I guess not then!

Finally it's starting to snow here. i was starting to feel left out.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 10:48

Don't usually suffer but was doign a track session last night and pulled up as the muscles felt tight. After some more warming-up though they were fine.

Snow is 4 inches and increasing here in Luton. M1 shut northbound due to an accident to decided not to travel to Milton Keynes but to work from home today. Fortunate that I can do that I suppose. Will put the jacket, hat and gloves on later and head out for a run. Still be shorts though - I like the amusement factor of watching people look at you as though you are mad as much an anything else :-)
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 11:16

"look at you as though you are mad"....you are mad! :0)
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 11:20

Bonkers!
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 11:43

Agree with JJ - You'll probably find your muscles are plenty warm enough, it's just the outer layer of fat which feels cold because it doesn't have the same blood vessels running through it - But the general numbness will make it feel as if your muscles are stiff.

I think women suffer from this problem more than men because we tend to have more fat - Hence why lots of men can still run in skimpy shorts in the winter but we're all lagged up in our long leggings.

I have to say, my legs were soooo freezing last night, even in long tights, and I wondered what else to wear on my legs to keep warmer - I did consider wearing a normal pair or ladies tights underneath - Has anyone ever tried this?

My top half, which normally warms up really well, stayed quite chilly for the whole run.

I'm glad I ran last night though - Don't fancy going out in the 6 inches of snow today.

J.x
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 11:46

I've just notices tattiefritter has answered my question further up the thread - Sugoi MidZero tights sound just what I need.

J.x
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 11:49

I went for a run last night wearing Icebreaker wool leggings under fleecy Lowe Alpine tights, and was wonderfully toasty :o) It was a LSR, so overdressedness wasn't an issue.

I knew there was a reason why I bought loads of winter hillwalking gear in August!
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 11:55

I run in short(to the knee) running tights with long winter weight running tights over the top of them when it is cold like this .I find that keeps my legs nice and warm but as the tights are breathable I don't get too hot.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 12:57

I definitely think my summer leggings need updating for these cold months!
For those (mad) few who run in shorts, do your legs get warm whilst running? Mine were literally frozen numb when I got home yesterday even after 10 miles.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 13:08

I was wearing shorts - funny thing is I have a substantial knee brace with a hole over the patella. When I was in the bath my legs were a fabulous pattern of dead yellow - where the shorts and brace had been - and bright red everywhere else. Including the strip on my left leg between the shorts and the brace, and a perfect circle over the knee.

¦oD
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 13:13

My legs are fine once I start running. The only thing I struggle with sometimes is cold finger tips. Oh and ears if it's really cold, but it hasn't even got to hat temperature for me yet.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 13:25

I did a 9 miler last evening in shorts and the legs were fine - my torso and face suffered much more 'cos of the sweat cooling quickly...................but I guess many years of playing rugby in shorts in all sorts of winter wind, mud, rain, snow etc has conditioned the leg muscles to cold...........
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 13:39

I hate it when my face thaws out coz my nose goes bright red.


:*)
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 13:41

I had the tingly fingers in the hot shower after despite wearing gloves - that always tells me it's very cold........
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 13:46

Phil - at what temperature do you start wearing hat??? -40? I'm fully kitted out in longs, hat, gloves, windproof and a couple of layers...Maybe you just run faster than I do...
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 13:47

I don't do hats. They pop off after three strides.

~:o)
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 13:48

even if I pull them right down

<o)
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 13:48

nah, don't do hats either - get far too hot. Just gloves for me.

Posted: 08/02/2007 at 13:50

ooh, and leggings & jacket too! I don't streak honest!
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 13:51

Maybe I'm a cold blooded lizard! I've been wearing a hat for ages.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 13:51

I had a hat on last night - to stop the headlight strap chafing........

Jj - try a Gore running hat - lots of lycra so sits tight and snug and not too bulky either.........
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 13:53

NYL - I don't know yet! Critical temperature for hat wearing whilst cycling or skiing is a different matter but I think I'd always overheat when running.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 13:56

FB I think that would just give me a headache! I'm not bothered really - got plenty of hair.

did your headlight chafe as much as a headsweat?[blink]
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 14:09

I cant wear a hat either. They pop off like Jj's! Plus I get an itchy forehead & waaay too sweaty!
I went to the club with cycling shorts & trackies, a long sleeve top & t-shirt over the top. Followed by a jumper & ski jacket! & gloves!

Once I'd warmed up I ran in the 2 base layers! Its nice to put the rest back on when you've finished.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 14:15

I suspect my very small head helps with the "hat not popping off" thing.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 16:03

microcephaly's a turrible ting.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 16:07

Hi Guys:
I just want to say that i was really stiff last night as well!!!!
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 16:09

oh my aching sides.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 16:12

microcephaly's a turrible ting.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 16:22

¦oD

a turrible turrible ting, in fact.
Posted: 08/02/2007 at 16:23

See more comments...
We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Smart Coach
Free, fully-personalized training plans, designed to suit your racing goals and your lifestyle.