Winter running. You either love it or you hate it! I’ve met many runners who simply can’t stand treadmill running, and it’s outdoors or nothing no matter the weather. Unfortunately for many fair-weather runners who prefer the treadmill to the snow, 2020 has handed us gym closures, and group workout cancellations.
So, what’s a runner to do? Take it outside!
This winter is proving to be a big year for outdoor running, with more folks than ever gearing up to brave the cold, ice, and snow for the sake of a good workout. Virtual races are also growing exponentially. They’re providing runners endless opportunities for setting new goals and adding to those medal collections.
Since so many runners are trying out winter running for the first time, it can seem a little intimidating. What to wear? How warm to dress? Should I get those grippy things for my shoes? How cold is too cold?
Unfortunately I can’t tell you what temperature is just too frosty to head out for a few miles (just be safe!). But, I can give you these 5 winter running tips! And hey, they might just help you fall in love with winter running!
Winter Running Tip #1: Get the right gear
Having the right gear for whatever winter running throws at us is key. If you want to enjoy yourself while running this winter, having the right gear is a necessary first step. Not only will some of this gear help keep you safe, it’ll also make running much more comfortable and enjoyable!
- Shoe grips for icy sidewalks
- Wet-wicking socks (perfect for slushy, wet weather. They’ll keep your feet dry which helps them stay warm)
- Warmer shoes that have less ventilation (look for ones with less mesh, or use tape to cover up the vents)
- Top and bottom base layers (sometimes these and a windbreaker on top is all I need!)
- A windbreaker layer
- Gloves and a hat or headband.
- A headlamp (if you’re running in the dark)
You may also want to check out other gear like goggles or face masks for when it’s REALLY cold out and those frostbite warnings are in effect!
ps. huge thanks to my lovely Instagram followers for sharing all of the gear they just can’t run without!
Winter Running Tip#2: Warm up before you head out
It’s very tempting to get dressed and head out the door without so much as a thought to warming up (guilty!) While that might not have serious consequences in the warm summer air, in the winter that can increase your risk of annoying injuries.
Before heading out for those chilly miles, take the time to do a thorough warm up. Not only will it prepare your muscles and joints for the run, it’ll help bring your body temperature up a little bit so the cold air doesn’t feel quite so cold when you do step outside.
Winter Running Tip #3: Don’t go overboard on bundling up
“But it’s COLD outside!”
When it’s frosty out there the tendency is to dress nice and warm so you’re comfortable as soon as you step out the door. Maybe an extra hoodie under your windbreaker or a double layer of socks. What can happen though is once you get moving (and start sweating) you’ll overheat. Then, as that excess sweat evaporates you’re going to feel twice as cold. If you stay dry, you’ll stay warm!
A good guideline is to dress as if it’s about 10 degrees warmer than it actually is outside. So, for example if it’s -10C, dress how you would if it was only 0 out. You might feel a little cool at first, but you’ll be glad you didn’t overdress as you start putting on the miles!
Warming up a little bit before you head out the door will also help you feel more comfortable from the get-go!
Winter Running Tip #4: Set SMART goals
Many runners take a fitness vacation in the winter, and pick up their mileage again when the spring thaw starts. But, winter is a GREAT time to start base building and strength training so you can start the new year way ahead of the game.
That being said, setting SMART goals will help keep you motivated and on track! SMART goal stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-oriented. For example “I want to run faster” is a great goal, but it isn’t a SMART one.
A great SMART goal might be: I want to finish my next race faster than my current best time. To do this I’m going to train 5 days per week and join a group running program to help me stay accountable”
See? Now that’s SMART!
Having a specific and action-based goal is a great way to prevent us from falling into winter hibernation mode. I get it, sometimes Netflix and the couch is calling our name much louder than our running shoes. But, having a goal and accountability plan will keep you focused on what you want to achieve!
Winter Running Tip #5: Keep things fresh
Winter running shouldn’t just be about putting in the miles. We tend to spend far more time indoors in general throughout these cold, dark months and breaking that up with some regular fresh air is good for the body and mind.
So, get out there and enjoy all of the activities winter has to offer! Cross training can come in many forms when we have cold weather and snow. Go for a skate, cross-country ski, or tackle your favorite hiking trail on showshoes!
The bottom line
Winter running has become a necessity for many of us, along with all of the other unexpected changes 2020 has brought on. But, instead of crawling under the covers and not coming out until groundhog day, enjoying winter running isn’t impossible!
Getting the right gear, dressing for the weather the right way, and setting goals for ourselves can make the experience safer, more enjoyable and keep us motivated. We can also take advantage of new cross training opportunities that we don’t get to enjoy in the summer months.
So, get out there this year and enjoy the cooler temps, change of scenery, and maybe even find a new love for winter running!