What’s a runner to do when the days get shorter, the temperature dips below freezing, and being outside for any length of time becomes downright unpleasant? Read on for our tips on keeping up your mileage throughout the winter.
Some people don’t want to brave winter running and prefer to move their workouts indoors for the coldest months. Switching up your fitness routine in the winter can actually be a great option—it can help you avoid injury, become a more well-rounded athlete, and prevent running burnout.
But, the truth is that your running fitness will likely suffer a bit during this break. And maybe you just love outdoor running too much to give it up for a while. So if you’re determined to keep up your running regimen throughout the winter, or are training for a spring race, we’ve got all the tips you need to make it through.
This is a no-brainer, but it can be difficult to figure out the exact right amount of clothing when it’s warm out. Your instinct might be to bundle up with several layers, a jacket, and 2 pairs of leggings.
If you overdress, you’ll be desperate to take off a few of those layers after a mile or two, as your body temperature rises. A good rule of thumb is to dress as if it’s 20 degrees warmer, and wear breathable and sweat-wicking layers. Get a good pair of gloves and ear warmer or hat to wear, but don’t overdo it on the running tops, pullovers, and jackets.
I also like to stick a few tissues in my gloves during a run, as my nose almost always starts to run. I also bring lip balm, and if it’s really cold or windy, I’ll put petroleum jelly on the exposed parts of my face to protect it.
Run on Well-Lit, Paved Paths
It’s likely that most of the time, you’ll have to run before or after work, so at least part of your run will be in the dark.
If you are running in the dark, make sure to wear bright, reflective gear, run on well-lit paths, and if it’s really dark, wear a headlamp or other light. For added safety, try to run where there are other people around, so you’re not all alone on a path in the dark.
If it’s been raining or snowing, watch out for ice or unpaved paths. Try to run on paths that are well-maintained and free of snow and ice. If necessary, there are various devices for your shoes, ranging from attachable spikes and grips to built-in stability aids, all aimed at giving you traction so you can stay safe on slick surfaces.
Shift Your Goals
Unless you are training for a spring race or have another specific, time-bound goal, winter is not the best time to push your fitness to the next level. Instead, it’s best to focus on maintaining your fitness, rather than pushing your body to run significantly faster or longer. If you keep up a strong running base throughout the winter, you’ll be in great shape to kick it into high gear when springtime rolls around.
It can be tough to get out the door to run when all you want to do is snuggle up under a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate. If you want to maintain a consistent running schedule, you’ll need to find some serious motivation.
Try downloading some new upbeat playlists or a few new podcasts to listen to when you run. Looking forward to an interesting podcast episode that you only have time to listen to during a run can be a huge motivator.
“Food bribing” may not be the best idea for everyone, but perhaps the thought of a steaming mug of coffee and bowl of oatmeal after a run is enough to get you out the door in the first place. On the weekends, you can even treat yourself to brunch out after your run.
And when all else fails, join a running group or make a run date with a friend. When there are other people counting on you, you’ll be much less likely to flake out.
Navigate the Cold
Try to plan out your run so you’re running into the wind at the beginning of your run, and out of the wind on the way back. This way, you won’t lose too much heat on the second half of your run and as you cool down.
It’s also important to be mindful of the fact that running in the cold can be dangerous if you don’t take the necessary precautions. Make sure to keep your hands and feet warm, and minimize the amount of skin exposed. After your run, don’t hang around in your sweaty clothes, especially outside, as your body temperature can cool down very quickly, causing chills. Better yet, take a hot shower after your run, especially if your extremities have gotten particularly cold.
Know When to Stay Indoors
Sometimes the risk of cold exposure and frostbite is too high, and it’s smarter to stay indoors, especially when temperatures dip below 0 degrees. When it’s too cold or your running path is too icy, try running indoors on a treadmill or track, or even checking out a fitness class at your gym.
Of course, if none of the above appeals to you, you can always buy a plane ticket to somewhere warm, and skip out on winter entirely!