Snow, ice, sleet, rain, hail and any type of inclement winter weather can ruin even the most well laid running plans. While I currently reside in Northern California, I am no stranger to cold weather winter workouts. Growing up in Oregon and attending college in Washington, I have had my share of mornings waking up to sub-freezing temperatures, ice covered roads, wind, rain and snow drifts. Winter training can be hard, however, it is necessary for optimum spring racing performance and keeping your spirits high during those cold winter months.
So how do you make those early mornings or late nights a little easier? I’m letting you in on the secrets to more bearable winter training and faster race times come spring!
Warm-up inside. Before you even open the door you should get your heart rate up, your blood flowing and get your body warm. Do a set of jumping jacks, squats, high knee runs, shadow boxing and side shuffles for 10 minutes before you head outside. This way you are already warm before you leave the house.
Dress in layers. When running in the cold you need to be able to stay comfortable during the whole run. Wear a base-layer, a shirt, a vest or jacket, gloves and a hat. In extremely cold temperatures, such as 20 degrees and below you will need to add an extra layer for every 10 degree drop in temperature. In 10 degree weather you might wear a base layer and two extra shirts, two pairs of running tights, gloves, a hat, mittens and a neck warmer. The colder the temperature, the more layers you add. As a general rule, you should dress as if it is 20 degrees warmer than it actually is because as you run you will warm up slightly and don’t want to be dressed too warm.
Be reflective. It gets dark much earlier in the winter and making sure you are seen on your run can mean the difference between life and death. Visibility in winter weather is often very poor so make sure you can be seen. Wear fluorescent colors like bright yellows and greens, wear a reflective vest or jacket, one of my favorites is the Nike Shield Flash Jacket, and use a headlamp. Headlamps help oncoming traffic see you and light your path. Win-win!
Run for maintenance. Don’t expect to get your fastest run in during the winter. During these cold months, focus on building and maintaining your base, while running injury free.
Wear appropriate footwear. Look for shoes with water repellent technology. Gore-Tex and Nike Shield technology are two of my favorites. They repel water and keep your feet dry and warm. When running in ice and snow you need extra traction. Yaktrax is a traction device designed to fit over your favorite running shoes. Yaktrax Run is a combination of removable spikes and steel coils that fit easily over the soles of your shoes and allow you to grip the road even in the toughest conditions.
Wool is your friend. Look for fabrics with wool to help pull moisture away from your skin and keep you warm even when wet. Your feet are especially important and wool socks will help prevent blisters and keep your feet warm. My favorite wool running socks are Feetures! Elite Merino+. Bonus, they come in lots of bright colors! Smartwool is another great brand that sells wool running gear like base layers, pullovers and socks.
Buddy Up. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Having a friend counting on you is probably the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do to commit to a wet, cold winter run. You can’t leave a friend behind and running with a buddy makes the cold winter miles seem more bearable. If you need to find a race or running club to keep you motivated check out the Road Runners Club of America.
Of course, if the weather outside is absolutely unbearable, you can always take your run to the treadmill. Treadmill running can have great benefits, one of which is that you are on a stable, controllable surface that you would not find on icy, snow covered roads. If you’re more adventurous, follow my tips for running outside and you will be able to maintain and build fitness even in the worst of weather.