You can do it!
One of the worst things about the arrival of winter is that the cold and snow can make it challenging to workout outdoors. This is especially true of runners, many of whom retreat to indoor tracks or treadmills during the colder months. But winter doesn’t have to put an end to our outdoor runs. In fact, quite the contrary. Training in the winter can prove to be a nice change of pace as long as you are properly prepared. Here are some tips to help you to continue your running regimen even when the mercury starts to plummet.
There can be a true art to dressing for winter running and having the right gear can be imperative. You’ll want to start with a base layer that is breathable and wicking, which will help to keep the moisture off the body and prevent you from getting too cold. A lightweight, outer shell of Gore-Tex or nylon serves as an outer shell to help keep the wind at bay, but still provides the option to remove it should you get too warm. Add a mid-layer fleece on very cold days for extra insulation too. Also, invest in a good set of running tights for the legs as well. They may resist the cold better than other parts of the body, but keeping them warm helps to fend off injuries.
Protect Your Hands, Head, And Feet
In addition to having a good base layer system for the rest of your body, you’ll also want to keep your hands, head, and feet warm as well. Running gloves come in a variety of weights that can help keep your hands warm as temperatures plummet. They also have the added benefit of being able to pull them off as you warm up as well. You won’t be able to do that with socks of course, but having thick, winter running socks will help keep your feet happy on cold weather run, allowing you to go further and faster. Finally, don’t forget about putting a cap, beaning or headband on your head to help keep the wind and cold off your forehead, protecting from a potentially dangerous situation.
Get The Right Shoes
Having the proper gear for winter running extends to your shoes too. Those shoes need to be able to keep your feet both warm and dry while also providing plenty of traction on snow and ice. Look for shoes that incorporate Gore-Tex, which provides excellent insulation and water proofing at the same time. Looks for shoes that have an aggressive outsole to help provide stability on slick trails and sidewalks, but if you find you need further traction, just add a set of YakTrax to your repertoire.
Be Sure To Warm-Up
A good warm-up routine is always advisable no matter the season. This is especially true in winter however, when the cold temperatures can cause muscle to pull more easily and turn a nagging injury into a more serious one. Stretching well and warming up the muscles ahead of time can really help alleviate those problems and prepare you better for the cold before you even step out the door. A routine of vigorous calisthenics prior to your run can make the entire experience much better.
Plan Your Routes Carefully
When selecting your running routes for the winter, pick trails that give you options to either shorten or extend the workout based on the weather. That way if you’re halfway through your run and it starts to rain, you can easily cut it short and avoid getting caught out in the cold. On the other hand, if it turns out to be a nicer day than you expected, and you decide you’d like to extend the run further, you’ll have the option to do that too. Having the ability to be flexible will prove to be useful during a season where conditions can change in a matter of minutes.
Run Into The Wind
Winter brings cold winds that tend to be more sustained and powerful than during other months of the year. Those winds can be tough on runners, chilling them to the bone and slowing progress to a crawl. When setting out on your run, try to run into the wind so that when you turn for home, you’ll actually have the wind at your back, lending some assistance when you most need it. This approach will make for a more challenging start to your workout but it’ll pay off on the latter stages of the run. It also lowers the chances of catching a chill at a point in the run where you’re sweatier.
Adjust Your Stride
Running on ice and snow can be treacherous at times, even when you’re trying hard to be careful. To compensate for the slick, and often uneven, surfaces you’ll want to adjust your movement accordingly. Shorten your stride to increase stability and keep your feet closer to the ground. This will provide better overall balance on both snow and ice. Fresh snow is easier to run through, while hard packed snow and ice are far more treacherous. Learning to deal with those conditions will be an important skill for anyone who runs in winter weather.
While you won’t sweat nearly as much in the colder winter weather, that doesn’t mean you don’t still run the risk of dehydration. The winter air tends to be dryer than other times of the year and the cold temperatures are harder on the cardiovascular system. Both of those factors can cause a runner to dehydrate more quickly than they think. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids before and after your workout. If you’re on a longer run, take a water bottle with you. Just be sure to fill it with warm water to avoid freezing.
Follow these tips closely and you’ll be able to enjoy running outside in the winter just as much as you do other times of the year. It only takes a few runs to realize that the cold isn’t something to be avoided but embraced. Continuing your workouts outside will also help you adapt to the cold more fully and is better for the body than working inside. After awhile, you’ll begin to wonder why you ever tried to avoid winter in the first place.