Experiment: Does Running in Cold Weather Make Me Burn More Calories? (Part 1)

I just completed the first trial of my Running Cold experiment and have some preliminary results!

I had previously defined my plan for the experiment at the end of this post.

Weather/Temperature

Here’s the weather info for today, according to Google:

Cold Experiment Weather

Attire

For the run I wore a pair of running pants, tennis shoes, a black T-shirt, and a black ski hat to cover my ears (I get headaches if I’m in the cold with my ears uncovered). Once the weather gets warmer, I’ll stop wearing the hat, but other than that I’ll make sure my attire remains the same across trials.

Timing & Route

I started the run at exactly 4:30pm heading South, and completed (arrived back at start) 11 minutes later at 4:41pm. The route I took was one lap of the circuit of my neighborhood. I used the stopwatch app on my iPhone to record a time stamp every time I hit a landmark on my run (the markers were the start, finish, and every intersection on the route):

  • 1st Marker (start, leaving end of driveway): 4:30pm
  • 2nd Marker: 4:34pm (4 min since last marker)
  • 3rd Marker: 4:35pm (1 min since last marker)
  • 4th Marker: 4:39pm (4 min since last marker)
  • 5th Marker (end, arrive back at end of driveway): 4:41pm (2 min since last marker)

Recording the markers will help me to know if I’m on track next time I do the run, and adjust mid-run if I’m not.

The route is almost exactly one mile. It is fairly flat, with a slight hill (up and down) between the 2nd and 3rd markers, and another hill (moderate incline followed by a more gradual downward slope) between the 4th and 5th markers.

I definitely ran faster before hitting the 2nd marker and then slowed down to what felt like a more consistent pace thereafter.

Results: METs, Calorie Burn, and Heart Rate

The chart from my BodyMedia Fit tracker:

BodyMedia Run 3/17/2013 Calorie Tracker

My reaction: I finally broke through 10 Cals/Min! I peaked out at 10.6 Cals/Min at 4:34pm. So far, comparing this with previous exercises, the run has had a much more significant and sustained impact than other types of workouts. And with more data from future runs, I should be able to determine what role, if any, the cold temperature may have had in this.

Another interesting finding is how flat the graph is once it levels out at 4:33pm. In that way the chart looks very different from the other exercises I have been tracking. I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising, as the nature of the task being performed was a slow and steady jog without any intermediate starting and stopping. One conclusion I can come to is that changes in elevation along my route do not seem to have had much impact on Calories Burned (although it’s possible I slowed down or sped up to compensate without realizing it).

One additional thing that I tracked was my heart rate. I took a reading at 4:44pm, 3 minutes after I arrived back in the driveway (wanted to take a reading sooner, but I had some trouble getting the app to take the reading, possibly due to the cold). Finally came through at 130bpm.

  • Average METs: 8.9
  • Calories Burned: 107
  • Distance: 0.99 miles
  • Duration: 11 minutes
  • Average Speed: 5.4 mph
  • Temperature: 35 F
  • Humidity: 59%
  • Wind: 14 mph
  • Heart Rate 3 min after finish: 130bpm

Next Steps

I intend to do additional trials in cold weather to be sure that my results are reliable. After that, it’s just a matter of running in warmer weather to do additional trials and hopefully proving or disproving the hypothesis.

Follow-up posts: Trial 2, Trial 3

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