Just behind running in sweltering summer temperatures is where you’ll find a runner’s disdain for frigid temperatures and winter weather. As runners, it’s hard for us to enjoy the extreme temperatures. The good news is putting on more layers often keeps you comfortable as you log those long miles. However, there are a few more things to consider to stay safe and enjoy the season.
“Here in Minnesota, we embrace winter with a passion,” says Ron Byland, founder and coach at Mile to Marathon. “While there are so many new types of indoor facilities that provide some sort of training, I believe nothing beats going out on a winter run with a bunch of your friends and seeing the area in a different light with the snowfall, followed by — of course — going out to breakfast or dinner afterward and rewarding yourself for a job well done.”
If you’re hoping to gain a new appreciation for winter running, follow these five coach-approved tips to keep you safe on the roads and trails and running strong all season long.
1. PRACTICE PROPER SAFETY ETIQUETTE
You don’t necessarily have to run indoors during the winter as long as you take the proper precautions to stay safe on the roads. A lot of this is similar to the preparations you would make for an early morning or nighttime run, so you may already have most of the safety gear you need, including headlamps and reflective clothing.
“Wear bright clothes, bundle up and enjoy nature when it’s cold out,” shares Tom Clifford, founder and coach at Without Limits. “I think that running outside should be everyone’s top choice if the risk is low.” Byland agrees and adds that as long as you follow safety precautions, running in the chilly temperatures can actually boost your mental stamina. Headed into the spring racing season, you may find you are actually a tougher runner.
Additionally, Clifford says not to neglect hydration just because it’s cold outside and you may not be sweating as much.
2. GET THE RIGHT GEAR
You will need to invest in a few pieces of gear to run in cold temperatures than you would in the hot and humid summer, however, these staples can last for many years. Depending on where you live, dressing for a run can be a bit tricky if there is a wind chill, but Clifford says a comfortable run is possible with the right gear.
“Runners should always dress in layers and invest in a good pair of wind-resistant gloves, head wear and comfy socks,” urges Clifford. “Remember that you can regulate your temperature much easier in the winter than the summer, but being too cold actually takes more energy out of you. Dress in layers and remember that if you start running with the wind, it might feel OK until you turn around.”
If you have any question about when to wear pants versus shorts or capris, Clifford recommends always wearing long pants when temperatures are 40 degrees and below. If it is 50 degrees or below, you can just use long pants during your pre-workout warmup.
3. INVEST IN TRAIL SHOES
You don’t necessarily need to add spikes to your road shoes for winter weather conditions, especially when a pair of trail shoes will do the trick. If you tend to hit the trails during the summer racing season, the good news is your shoes will get you through multiple training seasons.
“If you are an intermediate or advanced runner, you might be able to get away with spikes on a soft surface trail that has packed snow,” notes Clifford. “However, your best option would be a good pair of water-resistant trail shoes to keep you dry and gripping the snow as much as possible.”
Should you choose to get spikes, Byland explains that there are products you can put over your road shoes that have rubber and metal spikes on them for added traction.
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4. READ THIS BEFORE RUNNING ON SNOWY ROADS
It may not snow in every part of the country, but knowing how to navigate snowy roads is still essential if you’re traveling or experiencing a weather phenomenon in your city.
You’ll have to change your stride a bit if you go for a run while it’s snowing. “Take shorter steps and try to pick a route that you know will most likely be plowed,” cautions Clifford. “Running in the snow is actually a good strength workout but overstriding, dragging your feet and black ice can cause injury.”
It is best not to run alone in inclement weather. Byland suggests finding a group to train with, especially if you live in a place with frequent snowstorms. “I always promote running with a buddy or a team,” notes Byland. “Our Mile to Marathon run club runs outside all winter, and we always stick with another runner to make sure that, on the off chance someone does slip or fall, there is someone nearby. “
5. TRY THIS TRICK WHEN THE ROADS ARE ICY
It’s important to know that you won’t always be able to see ice, especially in the case of black ice or when snow has fallen on top of the icy roads. Because of this, it is vital to pay attention to weather forecasts and reported road conditions.
The good news is that just because ice is reported, you don’t have to automatically hit the treadmill. Clifford recommends first checking if there is a nearby cross-country ski course where the trails are groomed and packed. If that isn’t an option, then an indoor run may be in your future.
Practicing proper form is another way to avoid injury, especially if you find yourself encountering ice or melting snow. “I always talk to my runners about proper form, both on dry pavement and in snowy conditions,” adds Byland. “If you become more efficient with your form, most people won’t struggle as much with slipping and sliding.”
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN