Do’s (and a Couple Don’ts) for WINter Running
I love running outside in the winter. I think it might be my favorite time of the year to run, in fact. Funny, coming from a scrawny gal who is always cold and hated being outdoors growing up. When you run a few miles in the cold, you heat up from head to toe – and the endorphin rush mixed with rosy cheeks is a sweet reward for getting out there.
By now, most runners have read all the top 10 “What To Do (or not) While Running in the Winter” articles out there. They all seem to say the same thing, albeit with reason. I’d like to add a few of my own personal tips, learned while busting out snowy 3-5 milers in -25C with winds occasionally gusting to 40mph.
Start every run with your mouth covered.
If you spend at least 10 minutes warming up outside with your mouth covered you won’t be exposing your fresh lungs to the cold dry air immediately. Use a tech fleece or synthetic face cover and let the humid air from your breath keep your lungs from drying out. I keep it on as long as I can, but it is refreshing every now and then to uncover your face (if the wind is at your back!).
Wear the right layers.
Layering is good but make sure you’re doing it right – NO COTTON! It traps and combines the cold plus damp sweat, and you will freeze your kahunas. Some natural wool on the base is best, followed by a tech fleece (or two for those really cold days), then an outer shell for wind and water resistance. Ventilation in the armpits is key for when you start to warm up too much. I put a skirt on over it all too, to keep my butt warm…that seems to be the only part of me that gets really cold on long runs for some reason…!
Shorten your stride and think “pancake feet”.
Ice can take you by surprise, under the snow or disguised as concrete. Keep your feet under you, take smaller steps. Take a page out of the ChiRunning book and use the image of pancake feet or “clown shoes” to help you to land with a more midfoot, relaxed strike. That way if you do come upon a patch of ice you’ll be more able to control your body’s reaction. It’s also a great way to think in general, especially if you have chronically tight calves.
Wear hydration under your coat.
If you’re heading out for more than 6 miles, take your hydration belt but try wearing it under your top layer – this keeps the liquid closer to body temperature, which, aside from it not turning into a slurpee, makes it much easier on the stomach.
Try to beat your PR.
There’s a reason the elites use this time of the year for base training. Focus on things other than speed. Use a heart rate monitor and challenge yourself make most of your runs under 65% of your max (and lose the turkey weight in the process. Yeah, I know, we all still have it too!). Or heck, enjoy a few runs without your watch! Take in the pretty snowflakes falling from the sky, or the sparkle of the snow in the moonlight. Listen to how quiet it is when you run in the snow, aside from the delicious crunch of it under your feet.
Worry about being cold.
Dress properly for the weather and you won’t have a problem! If you have done this, everything from your head to toe will stay comfortable (and if it isn’t just do a fartlek). I think my biggest fear was my feet would get cold in the snow but that fear was put to rest at the end of my first few winter runs. My feet actually got warmer throughout the run, no special socks needed, and all that worry was for nothing…so go out there and enjoy your hot bod in the cold air!
Have fun with it, and do an extra mile out there for me! I’m using a treadmill for all my runs these days…much easier to respond to a napping child when you’re not 3 miles away. 😛