It’s winter here in the northern hemisphere, and that means one of two things: either you are out running in less than ideal conditions, or your are on a treadmill. (or not at all… but that would be 3 things). Most of us don’t like treadmills, and since there is not the plethora of apps to make it as enjoyable as indoor cycling (although Zwift is changing that!!!) most of us are more inclined to brave the elements for our runs than we are for our bike rides. So here is my beginner’s guide to winter running!
- Dress right
The first thing we all think about is how cold it is when we head out for our winter runs. So we all know dressing right is a challenge, especially because we want to be warm without impeding our flexibility. So here are a few things to keep in mind.
Think layers: Depending on how cold it is, you will need multiple layers. This also helps you regulate temperature as your body warms up. I usually have 3 layers on top (base, insulating, and wind resistant) and only 1 or 2 on the bottom (base and wind-resistant).
Mind the extremities: A hat, gloves, and good wool socks go a long way. Taking a hat off mid run is also a great way to cool down if you start to get a little warm.
Be visible: Days are shorter, and in bad weather, visibility is compromised even more. Don’t leave it to chance that you will be seen. Wear bright colors and reflectors if there is even a hit of bad visibility. You may also be forced to run in the street if there is snow and ice on the sidewalks, so you want to make sure you are seen.
Get traction: Shoes are important here. Trail running shoes might be a good idea in the snow and ice, and you may even want to give Yak-Trax a try. I used them for my winters in upstate New York and they work great at keeping you off your rear-end!
This is a point most of us overlook in the whole process. Fueling is just as, if not more important than in warm weather. You may not feel sweaty because it is evaporating so quickly or getting wicked through your layers, but you need to hydrate! This is also a great way to stay warm! I use a warm drink like Skratch Labs Warm Apples and Cinnamon to keep me warm on a cold run. Throw that in an insulated bottle to last you a few hours in the cold.
The other point is that you do still need to fuel before/during/after your runs like normal. Your body is burning more calories trying to keep itself warm, so don’t compromise on fueling! (Don’t go overboard either…. I just fuel like i normally would in the summer)
- Work right
There are a few things to consider with winter workouts. Obviously it all depends on how soon your races are and what phase of training you are in as well as what distance even you are working towards, but you need to keep a good head on your shoulders. You may just want to run another day, or switch your plan around for the week. If it is dangerous to complete a workout as prescribed, do something else. You HAVE to slow the pace in the snow and ice, so intervals are not a good idea. You may even need to run your long runs a tad slower than usual, and don’t feel bad if you have to walk a particularly dangerous section of road. Remember, it is not worth an injury sabotaging your week/season/ career just to hit a workout goal.
I hope this info gets you started on the right track for your winter running! What are some other tips you have pick up in your experience running through the winter? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!