Running Through the Seasons -- Winter

Winter is here, and while hibernating like a bear for several months may seem enticing, doing so would surely have a detrimental effect on your aerobic fitness. Here is some advice to keep you training through the winter so that you can run fast this spring!

Tips for staying warm, comfortable, and safe while running in the winter:

* Believe it or not, an easy mistake to make is overdressing. Remember that you are outside to exercise, so you will be generating heat. Wearing too much can cause you to overheat and be uncomfortable from wearing too much sweaty and damp clothing! A good rule of thumb is to dress for ten degrees warmer than the actual outside temperature.

* Wear a moisture-wicking technical fabric so that when you do sweat, you don’t get wet and cold. Winter running clothing should be warm but breathable to prevent overheating and allow for moisture transfer. A technical base layer should be worn closest to the skin. Outer layers should be water-resistant and breathable (but not waterproof) to protect you from the elements without causing overheating.

* Consider the type of run you are doing. For example when dressing for a workout, it is a good idea to wear multiple layers or even have extra clothing options on hand. A workout where you have the opportunity to add or remove layers allows you to do so according to the intensity at which you are training throughout the session. A continuous run also requires some careful planning, as you may not have the same opportunities to shed unwanted layers. On continuous runs it’s ok to start off feeling a bit cold so that you don’t get too hot 15-20 minutes later.

* Running in the winter means less daylight, so stay safe by making sure you are visible to drivers when running in the early morning or evening. Wear reflective clothing or accessories like a reflective vest or armband or clip-on lights so that you are visible to traffic while running in the dark.

Key apparel pieces for winter running:

Tops: A light technical longsleeve for warmer weather or as a base layer on colder days, a warmer thermal longsleeve, and a running jacket (wear different combinations of these items based on the temperature and conditions). A winter running jacket does not need to be heavy, but you should look for something that is wind/water resistant with reflective detailing.

Bottoms: It is a good idea to have at least two pairs of tights/pants; one lighter pair as well as a thermal tight (I like something that is fleece-brushed on the inside for additional warmth).

Accessories: Hat, gloves, mitts. Again go for something made of a lightweight and technical fabric so that the garment is breathable and to avoid overheating (for example, a thick wool hat is usually too warm to wear running except in extreme conditions).

Footwear: Moisture wicking socks are an absolute necessity any time of year; for a warmer winter option try merino wool socks. There are many winter running footwear options currently available, including trail shoes to offer better traction on the snow, winterized running shoes with a water and wind resistant upper to keep your feet warm and dry, and combinations of the two. Consider your needs and the conditions on your usual winter running routes, then consult with a footwear expert at your local running specialty store to determine what is right for you!

Other considerations for winter running

* Don't stress about your pace and focus on effort in winter workouts. Cold, poor footing, wind, and even wearing more layers are all factors that can slow you down from what you would run in ideal conditions. Don’t get too worried about paces and splits over the winter; zero in on the right effort and get the work done!

* Remember to focus on recovery. After a run in cold weather it is easy to go straight for the hot shower instead of spending time on recovery modalities. If anything, we need to pay more attention to recovery during the wintertime, as winter running can cause all sorts of minor issues from running on poor footing or tensing up in the cold. After a run or workout, go get warm, but don’t forget to also hydrate, stretch, and spend some time on the foam roller. Put some time into recovery and your body will thank you!

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