Winter is here, and for most of us, that means ‘hello’ to ice, snow and freezing temps. Not the best weather to be starting a running program in — right? Think again!
Winter can be a great time to start a running program as long as you take a few precautions and gear yourself up properly. Here are some tips to make winter running a cool breeze instead of a painful trip to the frozen tundra.
We’ve all heard this folk wisdom. But like most folk wisdom, it contains more than a kernel of truth. Dressing in layers for your winter runs will allow you to shed clothing as your body warms.
Start with a layer of a thin yet sweat-whisking synthetic fabric. Avoid natural fibers such as cotton because these fabrics hold moisture close to the skin, meaning you’ll quickly catch a chill once you stop. Strive for a waterproof outer layer, especially if it is rainy or snowy outside.
And your mom was right — you do lose a lot of heat through your head. So as much as you may despise hat head, it’s worth it to cover up. If you absolutely can’t stand the idea of wearing a hat, check out some of the chic ear-wraps available at just about any department store. You’ll retain some heat and keep your ears toasty.
The Right Shoes are Crucial
As any runner who has ever dumped it hard on a patch of black ice will tell you, wintertime means some slick surfaces. Wearing proper shoes is always crucial in running, but never more so when you’re dashing over the river and through the woods on ice and snow.
In particular, you want to focus on shoes with the correct amount of grip and support. Grip refers to what surface the shoes are suited for. You’ll want shoes that can grip well even on slick surfaces. And, since getting a little wobbly is almost inevitable, you’ll want shoes that properly support both your arches and your ankles. Many trail running shoes make for excellent winter running shoes because they are designed for less than ideal surfaces. But when in doubt, refer to the clerk at your favorite running gear store for help.
Don’t Forget to Hydrate!
When the temperature drops, we tend to feel less thirsty. This doesn’t mean, however, that the risk of dehydration has disappeared with the summer. So don’t put the water bottle away!
Understandably, the prospect of drinking cold water doesn’t hold much appeal when it’s below freezing. So take extra care to hydrate before and after your run. If you’re planning on a long run of more than two to three miles, feel free to fill an insulated bottle with warm tea to sip on during your workout.
Know When to Take It Easy
Many runners report that if they aren’t running, they aren’t really getting the best workout they could. But this is not true. Furthermore, continuing to push yourself when the weather is truly frightful outside can lead to an injury that leaves you on the DL for weeks.
So be kind to yourself. Many experts recommend refraining from running outdoors when the temperature drops below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Certainly, allow yourself to slow down! It takes the body a good deal of energy to warm the cold outdoor air to body temperature, so don’t get frustrated if you can’t maintain your regular pace.
Train Smart and Remember to Cross-Train
One smart tip for cold-weather running: start your run facing into the wind. This helps conserve energy for when you’re tired at the end of your run. It also helps keep you warmer as the wind won’t be drying the sweat built up on your face, leaving it prone to chapping.
And don’t forget the indoor option! Even if you prefer to run outdoors, remember that treadmills can provide a comfortable alternative for when it’s just too nasty to venture outdoors. They come in handy, too, if you are one of those individuals whose job leaves you with little to no daylight hours in which to squeeze in a run.
As always, remember to cross-train! In fact, winter is the perfect time to work some cross-training into your routine. Add in a weight workout two to three times per week or check out that intriguing new class at the gym. Cross-training keeps the body in balance and can make you a stronger, better runner overall.
The wintertime can actually be the perfect time for running if you’re smart about it. You’re free from the soaring temps of summer and the bugs have all gone to rest. Just take the time to outfit and prepare yourself to run smart. Then, get out there and enjoy running through a winter wonderland!