Tips For Running In The Winter
As most individuals would love to hibernate during the winter season, a large number of people use a new year to set health and wellness goals. To help motivate them to achieve those goals, some individuals may sign up for a road race or event to get them to stick to a training regimen. The only downfall of doing this, is that treadmill running can only entertain you for so long. To avoid having to fight your way across the finish line in those races, people want to train and avoid having to feel like a hamster to do so (I may or may not have that mindset every time I get on a treadmill, aka the “dreadmill”).
There are certain fears of running in the winter, due to the cold temperatures and conditions a runner may face, but there are a number of ways to make running in the winter safe and a great way to train for that upcoming running schedule (the 2015 RunCK Race Series has been released, check it out HERE.
1. Warm up properly – Taking an extra 5-10 minutes to warm up (best to do it indoors to avoid a drop in body temperature) will help increase heart rate, and raise core temperature. Also, it will help you with the mental preparation of running outside. Even though the optimal range of ambient temperature is between -4 °C to 11 °C (Renberg, 2014), there were no changes in time to exhaustion, running economy, running speed at lactate threshold or maximal oxygen consumption outside of those ranges. Running on the spot, jumping jacks, dynamic stretching are great options to do during a warm up.
2. Have a running buddy – accountability is critical to stick to your goals. Find a running buddy who has the same goals as you (running a 5km fun run, training for a half marathon, etc). Not only will you let yourself down for not training for the event, but you will let them down if you bail on your pre-arranged training sessions. Remember when your parents told you they weren’t mad, but disappointed. That’s what your running partner will say if you don’t stick to the schedule.
3. Have a goal (aka sign up for a run) – Signing up for a race in the spring will help you get out of that warm bed to go for a morning run before work or to get you to drive to the gym after a long day at the office. If you are a novice runner, don’t set too lofty of a goal (aka signing up for a marathon without having done a 5km race before). You want to gradually increase your mileage, and do it in a timeframe that will not lead to repetitive strain running injuries.
4. Layer – This one is important. Most runners will attest to that “one time” where they under dressed and it took them 30 minutes post run to regain sensation in the tips of their fingers/toes. Layer accordingly, and use the motto “more is better than less”. I would rather have a jacket to tie around my waist if I get hot then be wishing I had another shirt to put on. Don’t know what to wear? Use the graphic below to help you with a rough guide, try to wear moisture wicking material, and consult a running store/runner (they have usually learned due to some mistakes they have made in the past).
5. “Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em” – Having a rigid running/training schedule is not only going to be very difficult, but will also increase the risk of injuring yourself if you force yourself to go out in extreme cold temperatures or during a snowstorm. The Federation Internationale de Ski’s (FIS) website has a medical advisor’s recommendations of the lower limits of ambient (air) temperature for competition that relate to cross-country skiing. These are minus 16°C for races 30 km and longer, minus 18°C for shorter distance races and minus 20°C for sprint races. Use common sense. If an extreme winter cold advisory or a blizzard is coming, those might be the days where you substitute a scheduled outdoor run for a cross training session or a treadmill run.
6. Get acclimatized – The “boiled frog” analogy works best (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog) If you try to get out in -20 weather and go for a run without any prior experience/exposure, you’re not going to have a good time. It is usually best to expose yourself to gradually decreasing temperatures, as you will be more physically and mentally prepared for the cold temperatures that you will be exposed to. The people running in -15 or +30 degree weather aren’t “crazy” – they are just acclimatized to that temperature (and are wearing the proper attire).
7. Short strides – This helps with running economy (check out my previous article discussing running economy ), but also keeps you safer. When you shorten your stride, your feet are under your body, which will decrease your risk of slipping on ice or snow (as you won’t be landing on your heel, causing your foot to slip out from underneath you).
8. Run against traffic – this is for the country runners out there. If you can see a car coming towards you, you can read/react to what they are doing. Sides of the roads are going to have snow on them, so you may need to take up a little more of the roadway. Being able to move onto the snow if a car won’t move over (or can’t due to oncoming traffic in the opposite direction), you can move onto the snow for the 10 seconds of a car passing by you. Share the road, but be smart about it. (Aside – car drivers, please don’t purposely splash slush or get angry at a runner who might be using the road with you. You’re going to get to your destination way before we are done our run, please be courteous).
9. Be reflective – As a runner and a person who has to get up at 5:45am on some days for work, having reflective gear is a must. If you do a morning run, some people might still be tired and not as reactive behind the wheel. Reflective gear for both the front and back of you is important, and most running attire has a reflective component to increase your visibility. As a fail-safe, you can get a lightweight head lamp to make sure you are visible (and you get bonus style points – its win-win)
10. Change your footwear – having a shoe with an increased tread on it will improve gripping against the snow or slick surfaces you will encounter on a run. I enjoy winter running, but I don’t want to make it feel like I’m running on a beach. Unless I’m actually on a beach. During the summer. Man, I miss summer.
Overall, common sense should prevail. Winter running isn’t for everyone, but if you use these tips, it may make you enjoy or consider winter running. And your spring races will see the fruits of your labour with quicker race times.