Weather you like it or not, winter is arriving (pun intended).
The clocks have turned back, the days are shorter, and the wind has extra bite. Getting out the door to exercise is often hard enough, but when winter strikes, exercising gets harder. The big group runs trickle down to the crazy few, and you find yourself running alone in the darkness whether you go in the morning or the evening. So how do you make winter running bearable? Here’s some tips from a seasoned pro on staying warm, staying motivated, and making winter running as fun as possible.
5 tips for winter training:
The key to staying warm on those cold windy runs: layers. Although clothing technology has made gigantic leaps forward in recent years, rendering your old school sweat suits obsolete, even the highest tech jackets can’t seem to keep you at the right temperature. You either freeze the first 15 minutes of the run, or you find yourself getting cold chills every time the wind blows through your sweat soaked clothes. Having layers you can peel off can be crucial for maintaining the right temperature.
Make sure you layer properly.
Start with a simple t-shirt or long-sleeve shirt and build out. If you have a windbreaker, or that nice thermal, make sure it’s not your outer layer that will be the first to go. As Mom always said, it’s better to have something and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Better to start with more layers and peel them off as you warm up than spend the entire run shivering.
2. Stay hydrated
While it might seem like you aren’t sweating like you do on those hot summer runs, cold dry air can be deceptively dehydrating. Often you don’t realize that you are sweating because in cold dry air, sweat evaporates quickly. Without the soaked shirts or shorts, you are often tricked into thinking that you didn’t even sweat during your workout. This leads you to believe you don’t need as much fluid post activity.
Also, thanks to the body’s survival mechanisms, the blood vessels constrict to help keep blood from flowing as easily to your extremities, keeping warm blood for your valuable internal organs. Due to this blood vessel constriction, your body’s natural thirst response is often buffered, and you don’t feel the urge to drink as much water post exercise as you would feel during the hot summer months. Don’t get fooled into not drinking water post run because you don’t feel thirsty.
Drink up! This is also where wearing layers and staying warm can help combat the body’s natural responses to cold. Layering up, staying warm, and letting the body sweat will help trigger that thirst response. With slower paces and less sweat, we often neglect post workout recovery too. The one bonus of winter is that you can come back to a nice frosty Cocoa Elite recovery shake in your car! Recovery and hydration are equally important during the winter. Don’t neglect fluids and recovery products just because you don’t feel thirsty or hungry.
3. Cover exposed skin
Cold, dry, windy air can make life uncomfortable. Wind burn is real and uncomfortable, and chapped lips can make everything in life miserable. Plan ahead. Keep Vaseline or Chapstick in your running bag or car. Lather any uncovered skin in a nice thin layer and your skin will thank you. This is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to increase your comfort in the cold. Vaseline or Chapstick serves as both a hydrator and a protector. You might look shiny and silly while you run, but you won’t have to go through the entire winter with chapped lips and peeling skin.
4. Be lit
As the days get shorter, you find yourself wondering if you’ll ever see the sun again for a run. Thanks to less daylight, we find ourselves running in the dark whether you are out the door before work or wait until after work.
Running in the dark can provide extra challenges for you and those you share the roads with. Invest in a headlamp and reflective or fluorescent gear. With more distracted drivers on the road than ever, you can no longer expect drivers to see you, even if you are following all the traffic laws.
Head lamps can help you spot dangerous footing and being lit up like a Christmas tree can make you easier for motorists to see.
5. Be flexible and smart
While I’ve spent the last 4 points telling you how to tough out winter conditions, there comes a point where being outside can just be too difficult or even dangerous. So be smart. The colder it gets, the harder it is to run your prescribed paces. So be smart and give yourself some wiggle room.
While the treadmill is never fun, sometimes during the winter months it might just be necessary for that hard session or speed session if you are really trying to nail specific splits.
As the temperature drops to low single digits or below zero, you may want to consider going inside. It’s always better to be bored and safe than end up hurt or worse.
Cold weather often brings snow and ice along with it. Slow down and watch your footing. If snow is common for your area all winter, then investing in a pair of Gore-Tex shoes or snow treads can be the difference between you staying up right and warm or being supine and cold.
Brandon Hudgins is an Elite Track Runner. He became the 448th American to break the 4-minute mile barrier. His passion for the sport overflows and shows in his desire to elevate the sport to new levels. He also strives to raise awareness for the rare auto-immune disease that he suffers from through his association with the Vasculitis Foundation.
Brandon is also a published author. You can buy his latest book here: Going the Distance.
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