We have officially had our first snowfall here in New England! Since I grew up skiing and raced in college , I am true snow bunny at heart. I just feel more comfortable sipping tea, wearing sweaters and boots. I think I look cuter in my scarf and hat than a bikini. I thrive in winter. Now that my college days are over and I’m not racing every weekend and out in the snow training everyday it is a bit different. I have a long commute and snow makes it STRESSFUL. It also gets in my way when it comes to running. I live in Boston, so I run on sidewalks and winter running can be dangerous! I know the snow will melt this week when we hit 60 on Wednesday but it’s the perfect time to get your winter running gear together so your prepared and don’t miss out! So here are a few tips to make winter running easier…
Avoid running in the early morning and late afternoons.
It is colder at these times of day and as a result my lungs tend to burn and I don’t feel as good about my run. Running at the warmest time of day is much better for this. My body will be warmer and my lungs don’t burn. However, most days this is not feasible for me so I run with my nose and mouth covered with a buff in order to allow the air to warm up before entering my lungs. Another advantage of running at the warmest time of day is that there may be less ice and black ice out on the roads since it may have melted and softened in the warm sun.
Wear a buff over your nose and mouth when it is very cold.
A buff is a product made in different weight fabrics. It is a seamless tube of fabric. You can wear it as headband, neck warmer, hat, and over your mouth.
I first found these in college when I was competing in Nordic Skiing. They are perfect for high cardio activities because they keep you warm but are not too heavy once your body heats up. I still use mine now for running. I pull it over my nose and mouth to heat up the air so my lungs won’t burn. Once I heat up I pull it down but keep my neck warm with it!
Get a great pair of gloves.
I love Swix for their gloves. I know many running companies make gloves for runners but I have always ran in these and will always run in them. The palm is leather so they are nice and breathable and the outside is made of weather blocking material with a thin fleece layer. My hands heat up quickly when I run and these gloves are perfect since they keep my hands warm and are breathable so they don’t sweat. A bonus of these gloves is that they are formed a bit for cross-country skiers to hold their poles. This forming is also ideal since it’s almost exactly how a runner would hold their hands.
Regardless of what type of glove you use, it’s important to have good pair that you find comfortable. There is nothing worse than cold hands during a run!
Wear Layers and Avoid Cotton.
Another good tip is to wear a lightweight running jacket over a long-sleeve thermal top in colder months. It is important to avoid cotton since it won’t wick away sweat from your skin and will leave you feeling damp and cold much quicker. Many running jackets are designed with vents now so that when you get warm you can simply open a vent. And by wearing a thermal underneath you can take the jacket off and still feel warm should that be necessary. I like to avoid heavy items like sweatshirts with hoods and thick fleece jackets. I find they bounce around a lot, can be very heavy and do not keep me as warm as when I wear fewer well-chosen wicking clothing.
Additionally it is great to have a pair of wind blocking pants to wear over your running tights for particularly cold and windy days. It’s essential to keep your legs warm during runs! I also have a variety of running tights in various materials and thicknesses so I can choose the best suited pair for the temperatures.
Use a pair of Yaktrax or other stabilizers.
It’s important to be sure to use these after a fresh snowfall or any other type of precipitation. You never know where black ice or hidden ice may be looming and it is better to be prepared and careful then to lose your step and injure yourself.
They only cost about $30 are a great investment for those runners who like to be outside and avoid the “dreadmill”!
Use a reflective vest and flashlight when running in low light.
As runner’s we should be doing this no matter the season but it is especially important in the winter months! Daylight is shorter which means many of us will be running in the dark before or after work. Additionally visibility from drivers is decreased by lack of light, potential snowfall, snowbanks and the need to be more alert to other drivers actions. Protect yourself by making yourself more visible! Additionally a flashlight is key to spotting black ice and other dangers in low light. You can pick up small, lightweight flashlights almost anywhere. Target, Home Depot, Walmart, Lowes and your local hardware store should all carry some version of a small, lightweight flashlight!
Be aware of the weather and conditions.
We runner’s hate missing a run or having to come up with an alternate workout when plans change but during the winter months I find it best to have a Plan A and a Plan B workout. Plan A could be your outdoor run but have a Plan B, maybe a workout in your living room, or running on the treadmill or a class at the gym. You never know when the weather may turn and it can become too dangerous for you to be out running. By having Plan A and Plan B you don’t need to feel frustrated or let down should the weather not cooperate. Put your safety first! It’s not worth risking it to squeeze 5 miles in when the roads and sidewalks are slick from falling snow. You may fall and twist your ankle and be out for months! Make the smart decision and opt for Plan B should the roads be too slick or the weather too risky!
This is just as important as summer months! Keep drinking your water throughout the day and sports drink as necessary during long runs or after for recovery. Hydration is key in winter because the air tends to be drier which can affect our lungs and skin and dry us out. Additionally it’s important to stay hydrated to keep your immune system strong and fend off cold and other sickness. Staying hydrated will keep water in your body and will also prevent you from getting sick!
Use the winter to change-up your workout!
Obviously it’s best for runner’s to keep running year round. There is really no replacement for running. However, during the winter months when it is dark, cold and snowy running outside daily may not be an option. I use these months to allow my body to recover a bit. I run outside on the weekends one day and outside or on the treadmill during the week one day. I then spend another day doing cardio at the gym on the elliptical, in a cardio class, on the spin bike or something completely new! I spend two days in the yoga studio building strength and stretching out my muscles and give myself the remaining two days to rest. Our bodies have less energy and want to hibernate for a reason! Around late February, early March I start building my mileage back up slowly and once all the snow is gone I’m back to my normal running routine! Use this time to try that class at the gym that always looks fun, or try yoga and Pilates if you have never done it!
Hopefully these tips will help you to keep running and moving all winter long! I love working out and staying active in the winter. My winter workout routine is very different from my summer one. I enjoy the change in pace and the extra time in the warm yoga studio. I also find I like to keep moving more because I love to enjoy the winter sweets, stews and hearty meals that contain some higher calories! I also love to keep moving outside because I love seeing the world covered in snow. Whatever your winter workout motivation is always keep it in mind and stay moving!
What do you run in during the cold winter months? Do you use Yaktrax? What other products do you love for winter running? Does your workout routine change in the winter?