Your Winter Marathon Training Guide

Proper Winter Gear

Inclement weather aside, what can you wear to survive the long dark days of winter? The basics are pretty simple: lightweight, snug technical wear that helps to maintain your core body temp. Keep your extremities warm using gloves and a skullcap which can be pulled off and stuffed into the pockets of an outer layer as needed.

The outer upper layer is ideally windproof, has pockets, and even zippers in the armpits for ventilation. Note that heavy cycling jackets make for excellent cold weather running gear.

As for the legs, it's personal preference. I usually wear a pair of spandex shorts and then a long pair of spandex...the double layer makes sure I am warm where it counts and the snug material doesn't hamper my stride. For a more in-depth review of winter running gear, read my post on Daylight Savings.

  • For Running in the Cold & Dark: Consider adding reflective and/or flashing lights.
  • For Running in the Snow: Consider a shoe add-on like Yak Tracks to add additional grip.
  • For Running in the Ice: Trick question! Don't do it. It's just not worth the risk of falling.

Hydration & Fueling

Even though it isn't hot, your hydration needs are pretty much the same. The biggest difference is that you won't be feeling the outward signs of your work (sweat and salt), and as such tend to drink more conservatively. Add to that challenge the fact that you'll most likely be enjoying lots of yummy winter beverages like coffee and hot cocoa, which also serve to replace your regular water intake, and you could be ripe for a good bonk.

Eat and drink on your winter runs—especially the long ones—just as you would in warmer weather. This will take discipline, so be ready. A well-fueled run is the first step to proper recovery, and in some cases means the difference between recovering smartly or binge eating your way through some fruitcake. On really cold days, be sure to keep your fluids under your outer layer so they don't freeze.

The Importance of Full Recovery in the Winter

I have written before on the topic of recovery, and wintertime is no different. While I have zero quantitative data to support this notion, I truly believe that winter training is harder on the body. Take identical programs and execute them in the spring, summer, and winter, and I think you'll find that most runners report back that the winter sessions were the hardest.

Let's not forget that aside from the rigors of training and the weather, the winter is full of other stressors such as travel, work, finances and family. Take care of yourself with a macro-level approach to ensure that not only is each workout the best it can be, but that you don't suffer anywhere else either. Options include:

  • Scheduled Regular Bed Time: Getting eight (8) hours of sleep a night practically makes you invincible. Really.
  • Stretching/Yoga instead of Recovery Runs: Sometimes more running is less, especially in winter. Continue to take care of your body while you stay warm by strengthening and lengthening your runner's body.
  • Regular Hydration and Overall Feedings: Keep your tanks topped off to minimize the impact of the hot beverages and reduce the temptation to binge on the latest plate of free holiday snacks left in the office kitchen.

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