Running outside in winter? Are you crazy? Although cold weather and the holidays can really play havoc on your running regimen, it is one of the best seasons to be a runner. The weather is cool, the path isn't crowded and the running outfits are adorable! It's easier than you think. All you need are a few key strategies and a firm running goal, and you'll be running in any kind of weather.
Set a Specific Goal: There is nothing more motivating than to train for a race or specific goal. You can plan to run a 5K, half marathon or reach a number of miles every month. You'll have instant motivation in knowing you have to train for the race or hit your target mileage. Reward yourself when you reach your goals, then set another one.
Run With a Buddy or Group: Make your workouts safe and social. You'll have a built in motivational source, a friend to chat with along the way and it is safer to run in numbers. Running with others (or pets) is a great way to beat the winter doldrums. If that's not enough motivation, reward yourself with a fun race destination like Arizona, Florida or even Mexico.
Accessorize: Having the right apparel makes all the difference in the world. Layering is the key to avoiding over- or under-dressing. Consider wearing a layer that blocks the wind; pants, tights and top that wick the moisture away from your skin; and, for the coldest days, a mid-layer that fits more loosely—like fleece—that insulates and moves the moisture from your base layer away from your skin.
Your winter running wardrobe should include a running jacket, hat or headband, gloves, tights and a few long-sleeve shirts. Your body temperature increases as you run, so you don't need many layers in most winter conditions.
Dress for 15 to 20 Degrees Warmer: Over-dressing is easy to do in winter running. Dressing for 15 to 20 degrees warmer than it actually is will allow your body temperature to increase and reduce the risk of overheating and excessive sweat. You should feel chilled when you walk out the door. If you are toasty warm, remove a layer. Less is more.
Run During Light and Warmer Times of Day: If possible, run during daylight hours so you can absorb that needed sunshine we rarely get in the winter. You'll get your miles in during the warmest time of day and come back with a smile on your face.
Be Seen: If you run when it is dark out, wear a reflective vest or flashing lights so you're seen by traffic. In snowy weather, wear bright clothing. Run with identification or a runner's I.D. in your shoe or pocket—just in case.
Hit the Treadmill: When the weather gets bone-chillingly cold and icy, hit the treadmill. Treadmill running is a great way to stay fit and you'll get in quality miles without risking an injury from slipping on ice.
Gear Up: Wear trail shoes or a traction device like Yak Trax. They will give you better traction and stability in the snow. I used these to tackle the Antarctica Marathon and they worked really well on the snow and ice.
Note: Avoid wearing the Yak Trax indoors or on roads without snow. They're portable enough to keep them in your pocket until you hit the snow.
Stay Low: Shorten your running stride and keep your feet lower to the ground. You will run more efficiently and reduce the risk of slipping, falling or straining muscles. Choose to run on fresh snow rather than ice or packed snow. You will get better traction on fresh snow and reduce the chance for slipping. Watch out for snow-covered cracks and holes in the road.
Take Extra Time To Warm Up: Your body will warm up more slowly in cold weather, especially if you run in the morning. Take at least five minutes to walk briskly before you start to run. It may take 10 to 15 minutes of running before you are completely warmed up and in your running tempo. Take a hot shower to pre-warm your muscles or put your clothes in the dryer on hot for a few minutes then head out for your run.
Hydrate: It is just as important to drink fluids in your winter runs as it is in the summer. Make sure to hydrate before, during and after your runs to avoid dehydration. Use warm fluids in your water bottle or tuck it under your jacket to avoid freezing.
Start into the Wind: Start your run into the wind so you have the wind at your back on your way home. You'll avoid getting chilled by the wind after you've been sweating.
Keep it Fun: Mix up your route, run through the neighborhood holiday lights or run a holiday race. It will get you outside and enjoying winter rather than cursing it.