Diehard runners are always eager to log miles outside, no matter the weather. But those of us who are a bit shy of being a running addict need a little extra motivation to lace up our shoes and head outside when temperatures are cold and the wind is biting. Depending on where you live, winter running can be somewhat simple to downright challenging.
For people who simply don shorts and a T-shirt all year-round for outdoor runs, you can stop reading now. This is for all of us who must endure real winter, with snow and ice and wind chill. It’s not impossible to run outside throughout winter, but it does take extra planning and caution for safety. Especially when cabin fever or the monotony of the treadmill or track set in, a brisk outdoor run can be exhilarating, and a valuable solution for the winter blues.
Running outside during this season is unlike any other, so don’t forego this option before trying it a few times. But first, heed these important winter running tips:
- Always check the weather – This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s essential, easy to do with your smartphone and can save you a miserable experience once you’re pounding the pavement. Look not only at the temperature, but also at the wind, real feel temperature, visibility and chance of precipitation. These are critical to know how to dress properly. It’s also a good idea to walk outside briefly before you put on your running apparel for a reality check.
- Be smart in extreme conditions – If the temperature is below zero, or the wind chill drops below minus 20, it’s best to exercise indoors. You want to get out when you can, but don’t risk your health or safety just to run.
- Know danger signs – Cold temps can lead to frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite commonly affects the hands, feet, fingers, toes, ears, nose and chin, and can significantly damage tissue. Symptoms include numbness, tingling or aching, and bluish or pale skin; if you experience these, get into a heated room and immerse the affected area in warm water. Hypothermia is characterized by shivering, slurring speech and becoming confused; it requires immediate medical attention.
- Dress in layers – Layers help trap body heat and keep you warm. Your base should be a dri-fit shirt that pulls sweat from the skin. Add a polyester or spandex turtleneck or long-sleeve shirt if it is very cold, and then wear a weather-resistant, windproof jacket or shell. Skip the shorts if it is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and choose running tights; then add nylon wind pants on ultra-chilly days. Choose wool or moisture-wicking (not cotton) socks.
- Cover your head and hands – Your mom was right – you lose a lot of heat from your head, so wear a hat. You might also need a neck muffler or scarf, and gloves (maybe two pairs) are a given.
- Protect your skin – It may seem silly, but use sunscreen on your face and ears if it’s sunny and you’ll be out for a while. Lather on sports moisturizer and lip balm or petroleum jelly as well to protect from chapping and windburn.
- Be careful – Because there is less daylight in the winter, wear reflective clothing at dawn, dusk or night. And change your route as necessary – if sidewalks are icy, choose a plowed path, track or side street. Skip hills and bridges and reduce speed on slippery terrain.
- Dry off – When you are finished with your run, go indoors and change out of your wet clothes right away. Drink up to stay hydrated on the inside.
It’s great to be committed, however, when the wind chill is brutal or the streets are buried in snow, outdoor running alternatives can help keep you moving forward with minimal risk. Although to true running purists, these options don’t beat hitting the road in the open air, they are safe and still satisfying workouts.
- Treadmill – Today’s treadmills have great shock absorption, a wide range of paces and inclines, a variety of programs and convenient features like built-in fans and TV screens or charging docks for your phone. While they don’t replicate the fresh air or scenery of the outdoors, take advantage of treadmills when necessary.
- Zero Runner – This new machine replicates natural running strides but eliminates the repetitive impact, which is a treasure for distance, aging or injured runners. The Zero Runner‘s independent hip and knee joints enable you to replicate your natural stride and pace, so you use all the same muscles you do outside, but without the harmful pounding on a treadmill moving belt. Ultra, marathoner, weekend warrior and everyone in between will benefit from utilizing the Zero Runner in their training or workout program.
- Indoor track – We get it, running in circles can be monotonous. But it’s still running, and again, you can complete specific workouts on the track to improve performance. Seek out the longest track you can to reduce revolutions (check local colleges and universities), create a motivating playlist and keep a water bottle handy.
- Cross training – Just because it’s not actual running doesn’t mean that you and your body won’t benefit. In fact, taking on the elliptical, stairclimber, cross trainer, rower or fan bike challenges your body differently and can improve overall strength and endurance. Plus, total-body workouts address your upper body and core, which ultimately help your running performance. Cross training definitely counts!
Stay fueled and keep safe when running in winter weather with these tips above!