I remember in college, my track coach used to say that running in the elements is like running with weights on, and then come race day, you get to take the weights off. I like that. With the weather getting colder and winter approaching, I thought this would be the perfect time to share some cold weather running tips!
Growing up in Michigan, we never had a shortage of snow, ice, and frigid cold temperatures in the winter. This allowed me to really learn to enjoy running in this type of weather, and also forced me to find tons of different tips and tricks for running when it seems like it’s just too friggin cold to get out the door!
Usually late autumn/early winter is about the time that many runners decide to hang up their running shoes till springtime. The downside to this is that running doesn’t like to be neglected for extended periods of time! Come March when you lace up again, you will quickly regret the time off based on how your body feels after time away! Anybody that has ever had an injury or just taken an extended period of time off knows this well. When you attempt to come back, it hurts, and on top of that, it takes quite a while for it to start feeling good again! I’m going to discuss some tips for running in cold weather here in hopes that it will help many of you avoid this terrible effect of time away from running, and continue to run through the winter season.
1.) First and foremost, DRESS APPROPRIATELY! It helps to dress in layers. Wearing several thin layers of clothing helps trap warm air between each layer keeping you much warmer than if you were to wear one heavy layer. That being said, you also don’t want to overheat while running – this is extremely unpleasant, and yes, it is possible in cold weather. A good rule of thumb is to dress as though it is about 10 to 20 degrees warmer than it actually is. If you are a bit chilly before you start running, don’t worry, you will warm up as you go!
2.) You may want to RETHINK YOUR SHOES. In the winter, less mesh is more! Good winter running shoes will help keep the warmth in and the snow, sleet and slush out. You want to look for something that is waterproof to keep your feet dry, yet still breathable. Another thing you may want to consider are Yaktrax. These can provide traction when running in the snow and ice, and allow you to continue your training during the winter with the same stability you are accustomed to on dry surfaces.
3.) On the subject of feet, it is also important to LAYER YOUR SOCKS. This goes along with #1. Wearing two pairs of socks keeps your feet warmer and drier than one heavy pair. That being said, never wear cotton socks in the cold and wet weather. You want a sock made out of some sort of wicking fabric to keep moisture out and warmth in.
4.) There is nothing that will ruin a run faster than frostbit fingers, so it is a good idea to GET HANDWARMERS. This is a must for me. Before discovering hand warmers, I can’t tell you how many times I would go out for a run and end up so miserable because my hands literally hurt due to the cold. Anyone that has had this happen to them knows that once this happens, it’s nearly impossible to think about anything else, let alone enjoy your run.
5.) It’s extremely important to STAY HYDRATED. When it’s cold out, you won’t feel like you need to take in as much water as you do when it’s warmer out, but you do! You can dehydrate in cold weather just as much as you can dehydrate in warm weather, so use your camel back, water belt, hand bottle…whatever it is that you use to bring hydration on a run – bring it!
6.) It is a good idea to try to COVER AS MUCH OF YOUR SKIN AS POSSIBLE. You will lose most your heat from any exposed skin, so you want to stay covered. This means gloves and something on your head are extremely important. Personally, I prefer mittens over gloves – these are great for holding my hand warmers and I find that keeping my fingers where they can touch each other helps them to stay warm. Make sure to cover your ears. Ears can get frostbite very easily, and if this happens, you’ll be sorry. Wear a running hat or a headband that fully covers your ears.
7.) When it’s windy out, it is a good idea to wear a waterproof windbreaker as your top layer. This will keep warmth in while keeping cold out. If your dressed inappropriately, you will feel that wind blow right through you – brrrr! No thanks!
8.) STAY MOTIVATED by signing up for a mid winter race. This will give you a reason to keep training even though it is cold out. I love winter races – they’re tons of fun and quite cozy if you ask me!
9.) When running in cold weather, it is important to STAY SAFE. You can do this in a number of ways. Always tell someone when you are going for a run. Let them know your route and give them an estimated time frame on when you should be back. Make sure to wear reflective running gear if you are out after dark (this is important since it gets dark quite early in the winter). Rather than running a long loop, run shorter loops and do more of them when it’s nasty outside. By doing this, if you start to get frostbite, or you slip on a patch of ice, you are closer to home where you can remedy the situation. Make sure to carry your cell phone, ID, and some cash in case of emergency.
10.) BE CAREFUL WHEN ROUNDING CORNERS! I remember in grad school, I was out for a wintery evening run (I went to grad school at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI, so LOTS of snow, ice and cold). I was rounding a corner just off campus where there was a line of people waiting to get into a bar. I hit a patch of ice and down I went smacking my bum really hard on the pavement! I was SO embarrassed, and of course, I got a few “I give it a 10” calls. Thankfully the bruise I had on my bum was smaller than the bruise that my pride took, but lesson learned I suppose! Take it easy on the corners!
Nobody likes to take time away from running, and by implementing these tips, winter won’t cause you to have to! You will find that as long as you can keep yourself comfortable, running in the winter with the peaceful snow and the beautiful scenery can actually be quite enjoyable . At any rate, no excuses – gear up, lace up, and get out the door! Happy running! 🙂