As an outdoor athlete, nothing should get between you and your favorite running regime. As fall turns into winter, most runners start to freak out and go into hibernation mode. In as much as I hate the near-freezing temperatures and the shorter days, I never allow winter to disrupt my love, and neither should you.
Actually, winter provides the perfect environment for getting into shape without powering your treadmill. Nothing refreshes the soul as much as a peaceful running path, fresh cold air, and the adorable running outfits.
With these tips for running outside during winter, you won’t believe how easy it is to run in the chilling cold, provided you plan well and have the right outfits.
#1 Tips for Running outside During Winter
- #1 Be mindful of Sweating in Your Dressing
- #2 Be Smarter than the Wind
- #3 Remember to Stay Hydrated
- #4 Stay Visible, Wear Sunglasses, and Apply Sunscreen
- #5 Have a Good Grip of the Snow and Stay closer to the Ground
- #6 Do Not Be Too Rigid with Your Pace or Mileage
- #7 Accessorize with Gloves, Earmuffs or Beanies
- #8 Finish Fast, and be Prepared to Change Quickly
- #9 A Group Is More Fun and Motivation
- #2 Conclusion
#1 Be mindful of Sweating in Your Dressing
The first mistake you might commit is to assume that you will not sweat in the cold. However, this is rarely the case. During a winter running session, you need to balance between precipitation, protection from the wind, and keeping warm.
While dressing heavy might seem ideal, it prevents the evaporation of sweat which then makes you uncomfortable. The rule of thumbs is to always dress in thin layers which still wick sweat away from you. Avoid cotton as much as possible since it absorbs the sweat instead of wicking it away.
Having a few layers on allows for the wind and low humidity to evaporate the sweat. Start with a thin inner layer made from synthetic materials for excellent moisture wicking capabilities.
If it is still very cold, add a middle layer for insulation. Polar fleece is a great fabric for this layer. In this way, you don’t have to worry about chilling or overheating as you run in the cold. For those who can afford high technology fabrics, then you do not have to dress in layers. These fabrics are capable of keeping you warm without the sweat running down your legs.
#2 Be Smarter than the Wind
During winter, wind speed is often one of your worst enemies when running. Before setting out on a path, gauge the wind speed and direction. Wind speeds higher than 10 miles per hour become a key factor in the direction you should take.
Running against the wind not only slows you down but it also increases your body’s rate of heat loss. Let’s say you have determined that the wind is blowing from the North towards the sound, schedule your runs either towards the south, west or east for a majority of the runs.
In case it is impossible, then start the run while facing the wind as the sweating is still minimal at this time. Once you heat up and start sweating, running against wind speeds more than 10 miles per hour will really make you cold. Zigzagging as you run minimizes the wind effect.
In as much as you wouldn’t want to cancel your workout, at times it may be too windy to go out. As you move, the wind chill created around your body has enough penetrating power to render your insulation powerless. When the temperature is below zero and a wind chill of -20, then the treadmill would be a better alternative.
#3 Remember to Stay Hydrated
On runs that last for more than an hour, it is imperative that you stay hydrated. Regardless of how cold it is outside, runners heat up and lose bodily fluids as they sweat. Also, the cold weather and wind speeds have a drying effect on your skin.
As a result, your body is at an increased risk of being dehydrated. Taking a sports drink or water either before or in the course of a run or after the run is, therefore, a great way of keeping your body hydrated.
The reality is that most water fountains along jogging paths are turned off in winter. Consequently, you should bring along a filled water bottle. Alternatively, have a belt styled water bottle. Because of the cold, you may not feel the urge to drink, but remember to always have a drink after every run.
#4 Stay Visible, Wear Sunglasses, and Apply Sunscreen
In winter, I find it best to avoid running in the dark as much as possible. But if this is the only time you have for your runs, wear clothing that keeps you visible in the dark. Reflective gear or any light colored clothing should do for you.
Visibility is also critical during the day just as it is at night. Drivers least expect to find runners hitting the road in winter. Therefore, having bright colors makes you visible on the road or along the crosswalk. Being visible to other road users is the best bet for your safety.
There is a high possibility of getting snow blind from the glare reflecting off the snow, which is in plenty at this time. To alleviate the problem, wear polarized sunglasses to keep out glare.
Even in winter, it is possible to develop sunburn as the snow reflects the sun’s rays towards you. Apply sunscreen to your exposed parts of the body. Lip balm on your lips adds to your protective arsenal.
#5 Have a Good Grip of the Snow and Stay closer to the Ground
Running outside during winter introduces the possibility of slipping and suffering injuries. What I do is to look for streets that aren’t too slippery to run on. A good choice is a wide street that is already salted and plowed. On such streets, you are safer running in the opposite direction to traffic. It is better to stay safe than run on “interesting” streets.
Choose a route that is clear, has adequate lighting, and wide enough to avoid cramping with fellow runners. Rather than running on ice or packed snow, opt for areas with fresh snow as they are less slippery. While at it, be watchful of holes and cracks in the snow-laden road.
Running on the snow requires extra gripping feature from the shoes you are wearing. An ideal option is a trail shoe having a GORE-TEX fitting on them. Otherwise, fitting your shoes with slip-on grippers adds to the overall traction provision.
#6 Do Not Be Too Rigid with Your Pace or Mileage
When it comes to running outside in winter, give more consideration to your mileage and not your speed. Ideally, winter is not the time to bring out the “Usain Bolt” in you. During a run, look for elevated routes which tend to be warmer than low-lying paths. It is all about soaking as much of the available sun as possible, which makes a big difference to your endurance levels.
It is often a good idea to run around midday when it is warmest to cover all the miles you intend to cover when running. Otherwise, divide the running session to two times per day; in the morning and evening. Cover half in the morning, and the other half in the evening.
Do not try to compact all the 6-8 miles in a single time. You are more likely to become cold towards the end, more so in the evening. One of the great benefits of running in the cold is that it actually boosts your speed.
#7 Accessorize with Gloves, Earmuffs or Beanies
First, let’s dispel the misconception that most of your heat loss occurs through the head. That is false in the representation of facts. That being said, shielding your head from the cold remains a great idea. Ensure your earmuffs or beanies are thick enough to keep you warm, but also light enough to be stuffed in your pocket when it gets hot.
One of the baffling things I have encountered is runners without gloves on during winter. Keeping your fingers warm when the temperatures are below freezing points is one of the best decisions you will ever make.
At the same time, be watchful for frostbite, which is more likely without gloves. Monitor the ears, toes, fingers, nose, and ears for frostbite. Watch out for cold, hard, and pale skin, all indicators of frostbite. To stop the numbness, find a way of warming the affected area or stop the run and seek emergency medical care.
#8 Finish Fast, and be Prepared to Change Quickly
All that finishing power that you have been working on comes in handy when you are nearing the finishing line. This is especially useful if the finishing point is away from your house and then you have to drive back.
Try to reduce the distance between where you finish and a warm place as much as possible. What I do is plan the routes such that I finish at my doorstep. Afterward, I quickly undress from head to toe and change into warm clothes. A hot beverage isn’t a bad idea also.
The trick is always to be prepared for the sudden temperature drop immediately you finish your run. You may be a marathoner in the waiting, but keep your running to between 30 and 60 minutes. Beyond 90 minutes, your immune system becomes compromised. Plus, the cold just sucks for you to be in it for all that long.
#9 A Group Is More Fun and Motivation
You may be a solo person, but where is the fun in that on a cold, freezing, and windy morning? Like-minded winter running enthusiasts are a great source of fun and motivation to keep you going. Plus, there is always safety in numbers incase of any extremity.
I believe you can get a couple of your friends and neighbors with the same zeal for winter fitness. Also, there are running groups and clubs for people into those kinds of things.
For those who can’t get a group, then make your runs more interesting. Avoid boredom by changing routes often. Running in the opposite direction can just be as fun as well.
Running outside during winter can be really fun. Better still, it accrues you a lot of benefits just like you would accrue during fall. However, it takes a lot of preparation and research to pull it off, as the weather can be unforgiving during this time of the year.
To this effect, I hope these 9 tips for running outside during winter have been of great help. They are simple measures you can take without compromising on your performance. Focus on staying safe, hydrated, and warm.