The leaves have fallen and morning temperatures are dipping below freezing for the first time since mid-spring. Winter is upon us and with the change in seasons comes great opportunity to put in some healthy mileage in preparation for the spring and summer road-racing season. How to best put in those miles during the season of ice and snow, however, requires forethought on the part of each athlete.
Tip 1: Just Get Out the Door!
Winter tends to be the season where more "on-the-fence" folks choose either an abbreviated run or no run at all. During this season of early sunsets and colder temperatures, simply getting out the door is indeed half the battle. Once you put feet to pavement and your body warms up, brisk winter runs are as invigorating as any summer session.
More: A Better Pre-Run Warm-Up
At ZAP Fitness, we get a lot of questions about how winter running affects the lungs. In general terms, weather at either end of the extreme can make an existing respiratory problem (namely exercise-induced asthma and COPD) worse; however, the overwhelming body of research shows that air, once brought into the lungs, is warmed quite quickly, and that lung tissue is very well insulated for even the coldest of temperatures. In short, as long as you are dressed warmly enough, there is no reason to fear those single-digit days. The inspired air, once inhaled, continues to warm as it moves farther into the trachea and into the center of the chest, presenting no danger to the lungs.
Translation: Get out the door no matter what the temperature. I recommend running with a training partner, as you are far less likely to bail if you are meeting someone.
Tip 2: Avoid Icy Conditions
Years ago my training partner, Robin Rogers, and I were running on the beautiful trails of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Kennesaw, Georgia. The previous evening, a light layer of ice had formed on the trails. This did not deter the intentions of our weekly two-hour run, as we were diehards who saw a missed run as a sign of weakness. A dozen falls and numerous "near falls" later, Robin's Achilles tendon was the size of a hot dog. His inflammation did not get better for almost six months.