Facing the icy weather that comes with winter can be a little much, even for the most seasoned of athletes. Despite the popularity of treadmills, some runners prefer the feeling of fresh air and solid ground underfoot, even when temperatures drop.
If you’re someone who can’t get going inside, a little cold isn’t an excuse to forego your workouts. Finding the motivation can be a challenge, but with a little preparation, it’s possible to make winter running a regular part of your fitness routine.
Running in a down jacket isn’t exactly practical, but that doesn’t mean you have to risk frostbite just for a little outdoor activity. With the prevalence of outdoor running, many athletic wear companies invest in cold weather attire, giving you many options to consider. Fleece jackets, insulated vests, thermal undergarments, thick running leggings, hats, and durable gloves can fight winter’s chill.
Some runners, especially those new to cold weather running, are prone to cold lungs and coughing when on the trail in the winter. A face mask can minimize these side effects, protecting you from the pain of freezing air.
The term may seem like an oxymoron – after all, it’s hard to feel warm when the weather is so cold – but a warm up is still important, no matter the season. Prior to heading outside, get your blood pumping to start your workout off on the right foot.
After your standard stretching routine, add a little cardio with jumping jacks, a jump rope, or high knees. Spend one to two minutes getting your heart rate up, and do your best to loosen your muscles. The cold will be working against you once you’re outside, so the more prepared you are before heading outdoors, the better.
The street may look clean and clear, but ice can be a dastardly opponent, especially when you stumble upon it by accident. Instead of leaving your fate up to chance on the open road, find paved, plowed, and salted running trails to utilize when the weather is dicey. This minimizes your risk of slips, falls, and injuries, and keeps you in close proximity to other runners who can assist if help is needed.
If you aren’t close to any jogging paths or choose road running anyway, be sure to invest in shoes with good traction. Stay out of snowbanks – they may be deeper and larger than they appear.
Hydration isn’t just for warm weather; when running in the winter, adequate water intake is still extremely important. Your body will still sweat and release heat, increasing the threat of dehydration when running longer distances.
If you typically need water mid-run in the summer, you should plan for the same in the winter. Beware of park or trail water fountains, however: when temperatures get too cold, pipes can freeze. You’re better off bringing water with you so that you have access to hydration when you need it.
Despite sub-freezing temperatures, many runners are still motivated to squeeze in a full-scale workout. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible.
Instead of muscling through a miserable 10K with aching cramps and burning lungs, know your limits and stick with them. It isn’t always possible to hit your personal best in very cold weather, and pushing your body too hard can only cause issues. When running, listen to your body’s cues and be prepared to adjust your workout accordingly. If you feel strains or pain while on the trail, cut your course short or transition to walking. One winter run isn’t worth an injury.
Whether you’re a seasoned runner or still trying to build stamina, there’s no reason not to hit the trails this season. Facing the chill of icy weather takes a little preparation and a lot of mental fortitude, but there’s no reason to give up your running habit when winter takes over. From proper dress to adequate hydration, there are many ways to make running in the cold a little more bearable.