Well, it’s finally winter here in the northeastern US. I was a little worried for a few weeks that we were going to just slide straight from fall into spring but the cold weather showed up right on schedule.
A lot of people take their running indoors in the cold months, which I totally understand. But winter doesn’t have to mean treadmill – even if you hate the cold. Just like running in the peak of summer, there are lots of ways to tame the weather so you can enjoy some fresh air and maybe even soak up a little sunshine.
Dress for the weather.
And I don’t mean put on your biggest, puffiest coat, either. Colder temps doesn’t mean wear heavier clothes, it means wear more lightweight layers. Choose items made out of synthetic fabric that allows moisture to escape, or you’ll end up a hot, sweaty mess despite the cold and also be really uncomfortable. As you warm up, start to unzip or take them off and tie around your waist.
If it’s really windy, wear a top layer that blocks the wind, but isn’t waterproof. Because again, that will just trap your sweat and make you feel gross. Jackets with vents under the arms or across the back are perfect. You can even get them with removable sleeves so you can adjust if the wind happens to die down.
Dress as if it’s 20 degrees warmer than it is. This sounds crazy, but it’s true. You’ll be cold at first, but after you warm up you’ll be just right – instead of being warm during the beginning of your run and overheating just when you’re starting to do the hardest part of your workout.
One of the most uncomfortable parts of winter running is breathing in cold air, and having a cold face! So keep your lungs, cheek and nose warm by wrapping a lightweight scarf around the lower part of your face. It should be something that allows you to breathe easily, a loose weave or a really light micro fleece. And wrap it loosely enough that you can pull it down quickly if you need to.
Keep your quads and butt muscles warm by wearing an extra pair of knee-length tights on top of your full-length ones. This will feel a lot less restrictive than wearing two pairs, and still keep the large muscles of your legs toasty warm – which will help you run faster!
Convertible gloves – i.e., gloves or mittens with removable fingers – are a god-send in the winter. When your hands get warm you don’t have to take them off to stuff them in your pockets – just flip back the fingers and you’re good to go. They’re also helpful if you need to operate your phone! You can find them almost anywhere that sells sporting goods. Or on Amazon, of course.
There are ways to give your shoes more traction for running on packed snow (Yaktrax, or putting smalls screws into the soles) which can be awesome for winter trail running. However it might be uncomfortable to run this way on ice or pavement – so be aware of what you might expect on your run and choose something you can easily take off your shoes if you end up changing surfaces.
Keep your feet toasty warm and dry in the winter by slipping a thin plastic bag over your socks before you put your shoes on. This will ensure that your socks don’t get wet, and also block the wind if you have mesh shoes.
Visibility is important – not just because there is less daylight, but because everything is gray in the winter. So if you’re running in black tights and a black shirt, you’ll just fade into the background. Wear bright clothes that stand out against the background, in addition to lots of reflective gear and a clip-on flashing light.
If running on the roads around your house is a no-go due to snow, ice or darkness, check out nearby neighborhoods that have sidewalks that are plowed and are well-lit. Drive there and park, and go for your run!
So tell me – what are your favorite winter running tips?