Yep, it’s the beginning of the winter season. At least for most of the country that is. We all know this past year has been unpredictable to say the least when it comes to the unexpected amount of rain the eastern part of the country has had and the extreme winds of the west, with its relentless heat which felt like it was just pinning us down, day after day.

But now that it’s January, it finally seems like Mother Nature is reverting back to the normal highs’ and lows of winter time temperatures. At least for now, but how does this sudden shift in the regional climate affect your running?

Unless you plan on sitting out a quarter of the year’s workouts, running in the cold is a necessity. But training in cold weather can be more than just uncomfortable—it can slow you down and wear you out.

The colder the temperature and the harder the workout, the more noticeable the decline in performance—especially when it comes to intense efforts. “Your brain can’t tell your muscles to move at the same rate as it can when it’s warmer. With your nervous system running slower your muscle contractions also weaken. Less noticeable in endurance training, this will greatly affect hard track work and sprinting.

But with preparation and some slight adjustments to your regimen, you can maximize your winter workouts even when the temperature dips into the teens.

Winter Running 101
Extend your warm-up. When it’s cold, muscles don’t contract with the same intensity as they normally do. But by extending your routine, you can help your body acclimate before you hit the pavement. So, if you’re somebody who doesn’t generally warm up, consider breaking your habit on colder days.

Don’t overdress. Try under dressing when you go running in the cold. Wear what you would if it were 10 to 15 degrees warmer outside. It will be chilly at first, but once you start moving and your body warms up, you’ll find yourself much more comfortable. In fact, overdressing can chill you—sweating becomes the enemy in cold weather. So, layer wisely and with breathable pieces.

Go by feel. Instead of worrying about percentages and your pace, run by feel and gauge your performance based on how hard it seems. If you force yourself to maintain the faster times you average in ideal weather, you’ll wear down quickly and your run will suffer.

One way to stay on top of how your pace is and how your body is performing is using a good, reliable running watch. One that fits the bill is the Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS Running Watch  With its built-in GPS and having a Strapless Heart Rate Monitor, the Garmin Forerunner 235 is a must have for any runner looking for reliable, valuable feedback during a run or post run. No matter what the weather is.

Get acclimated. Don’t just tough it out. If you push the pace and have a poor performance, that will carry over into your next run. Keeping your mind fresh can’t come second to your body. So, avoid attempting a breakthrough workout on the first cold day of the season when you likely won’t be able to hit the mark.

Stay hydrated. Hydration is equally as important in cold climates as it is in warm climates. However, because your body doesn’t give the same indicators, many athletes forget to hydrate when it’s chilly

Keep in mind that running in cold weather, can be more than just uncomfortable—it can slow you down and wear you out.

People have different thresholds, but performance goes down when the weather is below freezing. At low temperatures the body burns energy to maintain its core temperature, reducing your fuel reserves.

With your body burning energy to stay warm, the infamous wall that long-distance runners are so familiar with hits a little earlier. Your body transitions from carbohydrates—its first fuel choice—to fat much more quickly than usual. This switch typically limits your top-end speed and power.

The colder the temperature and the harder the workout, the more noticeable the decline in performance—especially when it comes to intense efforts. “Your brain can’t tell your muscles to move at the same rate as it can when it’s warmer. With your nervous system running slower your muscle contractions also weaken. Less noticeable in endurance training, this will greatly affect hard track work and sprinting.

But with preparation and some slight adjustments to your regimen, you can maximize your winter workouts.