Training during the winter can be a challenge, but also a great change of pace! However, just like summer, extreme conditions often require some adjustments in gear, schedule and safety.
Here are some tips to keep you comfortable and safe while clocking those miles this winter:
- With early sunsets, you will most likely be running in the dark quite a bit. Be safe, and wear bright and reflective gear - especially if you run on roads. For your own visibility, you may need to wear a headlamp. Always run in roads facing traffic (the opposite of cyclists), and be aware of your surroundings.
- Investing in some decent winter gear can make all the difference in comfort. Avoid cotton like the plague, and wear moisture-wicking materials. Layer and invest in a jacket that will protect you from cold winds.
- Keeping your extremities warm can be a challenge - thick running socks and gloves can help. If conditions are really extreme, you can stick hand warmers into your gloves. Keep your ears covered with a headband or hat.
- A facemask may be necessary if you typically experience very severe winters. I have found chapstick, moisturizer and Aquaphor to be helpful in preventing windburn or chapped skin. Running glasses will protect your eyes from the glare off fresh snow as well as the cold air as you run.
- If your schedule is flexible and you can run during midday, do! You’ll get to enjoy the warmest part of the day and some coveted sunshine!
- Expect to budget a bit more time for your warm-up. While your muscles will eventually loosen and heat up, they will take longer in the cooler conditions. Be very aware of this, especially on speed days. If racing in cold temperatures, give yourself a VERY thorough warm-up and be sure to wear lots of warm clothes and keep your legs warm until the start of the race.
- Although it’s cold, you’ll still sweat so don’t forget about hydration - especially during long runs. Go into your runs fueled just as you would during the summer and fuel when you feel thirsty.
- As soon as you get home, get out of your cold and wet gear.
- Refuel with something warm. I like to heat up chocolate milk, drink tea or eat soup. Hot oatmeal can be great too. Think about warming yourself from the inside out. A hot shower or bath can also be helpful.
- If icy and snowy conditions plague your winter, invest in a pair of Yaktrax. They attach to any pair of shoe, and will prevent you from slipping and sliding. I’ve rocked many a 20-miler in the snow thanks to those bad boys (found at most running stores for $35.00).
- If conditions are too uncomfortable or dangerous, take your workout inside to a treadmill or be flexible with your training schedule. Winter training often requires some creativity and flexibility. It also can be a beautiful and quiet season for running.