Winter Training Tips: Guide to Cold Weather Running
The ABCs of suiting up for winter running
Don’t let the onset of winter interfere with your running schedule. It’s actually better to be outside braving the elements and breathing in the crisp winter air than trapping yourself inside a hot and stuffy gym. By following these simple training tips you can keep yourself warm and healthy while running outdoors this winter.
Change your route to suit the conditions
Make sure your route is suitable to run in winter conditions. It gets darker much earlier during the winter months so be sure that your route has adequate lighting so you can see clearly. If ice is an issue, then only run routes which have been well-gritted by the local authorities – a slip on the ice could cost you weeks of missed training due to injury. I bet you don’t want that.
One of the most common mistakes runners make while training in the winter is wearing too many layers. Remember that running causes your body temperature to rise quickly and even in winter conditions you may overheat and sweat as much as you do on a summer run. If you feel a little chilly when you start your run then this is actually a good sign that you’re wearing the right clothes. Usually two thinner long-sleeved layers are more than enough to protect you from the elements on all but the coldest of winter days.
Make yourself easy to see
Running during the evenings in winter often means you will be completing your run in complete darkness. Make sure you accessorize with reflective clothing. High-vis tops or other bright clothing make pedestrians clearly visible to passing motorists. This is especially important if your route involves running by the side of busy roads.
Warm up properly
You are going to need to take some extra time to prepare your body for running during the winter months. Colder temperatures mean your muscles will be tight. Concentrate on loosening them up with long stretching exercises for several minutes before you start to run. You should spend roughly twice as long on your winter warm up than you normally would in warmer conditions. This may seem tedious but it might save you from picking up an injury like a torn calf muscle or worse.
Drink enough water
Another counter-intuitive piece of advice is to drink plenty of fluids, even if the mercury is hovering around freezing point outside. This is important because you will still sweat during a cold weather run. You may not even notice how much you are actually sweating as the dry winter air masks that clammy feeling you immediately notice during the summer months.
Wear a hat and gloves
Although your core body temperature will still increase dramatically during your winter run, your extremities such as your head and hands will experience rapid heat loss when they are exposed to the cold winter air. It is a good idea to wear a pair of thin gloves and a hat made of breathable material. Make sure they can be easily folded to fit in your pocket if you need to take them off at any point during your run.
Run during daylight hours
This may be difficult if you have a hectic work schedule to deal with but by timetabling your run a couple of hours earlier in the day you will be able to complete your workout while maximizing your body’s exposure to sunlight. Exposure to sunlight increases your body’s production of Vitamin D, which helps you fight disease. It reduces your chances of having heart disease or even MS later in life. Sunlight also lessens the likelihood of developing depression and helps regulate your body clock, preventing the onset of insomnia.
Trust me, it can be easy to get demotivated when running during the winter. You can counter this feeling by engaging in some light competition with other runners. These days there are plenty of app’s you can download which allow runners to compare times on various routes. You could try to beat the best times or even just set yourself a more modest goal of knocking a minute off your best time within a month.
Watch your waistline
Winter is also the holiday season. It is the time of year when you’re most likely to over-indulge on festive food and alcoholic drinks. While it might be tempting to overdo the Christmas treats and enjoy that extra glass of mulled wine, your body won’t thank you for it when you go out for your first post-party run. Take it easy and eat just enough to make you feel full and not stuffed like the proverbial Christmas turkey.
Focus on endurance not speed
Running in colder weather will burn more energy and make you feel tired more quickly. It is therefore important that you pace yourself while running in the winter and not worry too much about speed. The aim of a winter run should be to make sure you complete your usual number of miles, so if you find yourself struggling to keep up your usual pace then slow down. You will find you can run further even if there’s snow on the ground.
Change your clothes quickly after running
As soon as you finish your run you will find that your body cools down much quicker than it did during the summer. It is easy to catch a chill or even come down with a mild case of hypothermia if you don’t quickly change into warmer clothes. It is also a good idea to have a warm drink after a winter run to quickly increase your body’s core temperature and avoid catching a chill. Remember that a colder core body temperature leads to a weaker immune system. You may be more likely to catch a cold, or worse, if you don’t warm yourself up quickly after running in cold weather.
Go out for a run. Now.
The huge bonus of winter running is a double-up on calorie burn. In other words, our bodies burn calories to run AND to stay warm. There’s also the extra joy of being the first to make those fresh footsteps in the snow. Don’t pass up the excitement of an evening cold run through large snow flakes or a crisp sunny run in the early morning.
Know that cold winter runs build character. You forge motivation and willingness to go forward and you can use this in the late stages of a long run. All you will have to do is think back to those challenges you overcame during long winter runs and you will be able to go the distance.