I’ve never been one for hibernation. Like most kids who grew up in the north, I learned to ski shortly after learning to walk, taught myself to snowboard a few years later, and spent nearly as much time on the mountain as I did at my desk in school. But, it wasn’t until I moved away from those mountains that I was forced to expand my definition of “winter fitness”. Suddenly, decent trails were over an hour away, and a snowstorm meant three inches of sleet instead of 13 inches of actual snow. Exercise and fresh air is imperative for my mental and physical well being, so I was suddenly faced with the challenge of figuring out how to move during those dark cold months, the months that somehow seem longer than all the rest. The answer, besides some serious gym time, was running.
I’ve been a runner for awhile now, and while I’m no gazelle — I’m not very graceful… or fast — I love being outside, breathing fresh air, and exploring by way of streets and alleys and paths. Up until a few seasons ago, running was saved for warm weather or the treadmill, until I bit the bullet and embraced cold weather running. It’s so completely refreshing and nothing beats the silence that seems to drift in with the winter air… even the city seems quieter when snow is falling. But that’s not to say I don’t have moments (lots of moments) when my motivation to get out and get moving flags. My house is warm, the weather outside? Not so much. The trick is to take that first step out the door.
To help you embrace winter’s chill and pound the pavement, today I’m offering up my top five tips for running in cold weather:
Choose the right shoes.
Running when there is ice and snow on the ground can be treacherous, and the conditions outside should be approached with caution. The right shoe is key to staying sturdy and safe (and upright). A low-profile, mesh sneaker just isn’t gonna cut it, you need something warmer, waterproof, and with solid tread. Choose a trail-running or cross-country sneaker that’s thick, ultra durable and waterproof; a shoe that hits higher on your ankle will lend extra support, too, which is important when there’s a possibility of slipping. See our guide for choosing the right running shoes for even more tips!
Dress for warmth… but not too warm.
Layering is key for running in colder temperatures and first and foremost, you need to know the conditions you’re going out into so that you can dress warmly and safely. Dressing for a 25 degree day is completely different than a 40 degree day, especially if there is wind chill involved. Check the weather report and plan ahead. A common recommendation is to dress as if it’s 20 degrees warmer than it actually is outside, that way when your body heats up, you won’t be sweating bullets at the end of your run (something that will inevitably leave you freezing and miserable).
My perfect outfit for a 30-40 degree day consists of long running leggings, a sports bra, a moisture-wicking tank, a moisture-wicking long-sleeve tee, a pop-over jacket or sweatshirt, a bright beanie, Smartwool socks, and gloves with the fingers cut off. It’s import that I’m able to shed a layer if I need to, so I always make sure I can tie my outer jacket around my waist if need be.
For colder temperatures, you may want to consider adding a face mask, neck warmer, headband, mittens and a heavier jacket. Experiment and figure out where your cut-off temperature is. I’ll admit, anything under 30 degree is a no-go for me, and I retreat to the treadmill.
Drink (more) water!
It’s just as important to hydrate in cold weather as it is in hot. If you don’t bring a bottle of water with you, make sure you’re drinking at least 8 oz. of water before and after your workout. While you’re at it, be sure you’re fueling yourself properly as well. Eat a little something before and/or after your run to keep you energized. Check out our tips for what to eat before a run for some great ideas.
It’s a pet peeve of mine to see a runner or cyclist dressed all in black at dusk alongside a road. City or country, each location comes with it’s own risks and safety hazards and you need to be prepared, evening falls quickly in winter and you don’t want to be caught in dim light when visibility is an issue for drivers. Wear a bright hat and reflectors at all times, and if you’re running at night, a clip-on light or reflective vest.
Warm up & cool down.
For me, the toughest part of running outside in the wintertime is simply stepping out the door. Warm up before you leave so your body is ready to take on the chill. Do some jumping jacks, a few lunges… anything to get your heart pumping and your limbs feeling warm and loosened up. It will make that initial step into cold air that much more bearable.
At the end of your run, be sure to take enough time to cool down. Stretch a bit in the cold air to allow your body temperature to come down (otherwise you’ll be way too hot as soon as you step inside), and then retreat indoors for some longer stretching.
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